Results May Vary…

Happy Friday!

I hope you have some fun plans this weekend along with some time for rest and play.

Tomorrow, I am driving to Julian, just outside of San Diego, to speak at a women’s retreat for graduating seniors from Point Loma Nazarene University.

The theme of the weekend  – which I love – is Results May Vary and the organizers of this retreat invited speakers from different seasons of life to share about their varied lives post college.

I am not sure how my 22 year-old self would appreciate a retreat like this. I was so focused on results, certainty, bottom line, goals and my career.

Perspective was not my strength at the time. It still can be a struggle when I get in the certainty zone.

And when my expected results varied during my twenties- personally and professionally – life felt like it was turned upside down. Learning about heartbreak, disappointment, patience, faith, friendship and the fragility of life went against “the plan”  – but uncertainty, love and adversity brought me out of my comfort zone and began to teach me what it meant to live a life of courage.

Because I was living a life of shoulds based on what it seemed everyone was supposed to do, it took some intense curve balls to wake me up to the beauty of uncertainty and the varied results of living a brave life less focused on the opinions others + external measures and more reflective on integrity, value and trust.

Telling someone, “Results may vary.” is not the best confidence-builder – but it is honest feedback and helps check expectations that may fuel worry, fear of missing out and rash decisions.

Our brains are hardwired for certainty and safety, so it makes sense there is a pull towards this homeostasis.

Even in my work as a psychotherapist, I get asked:

  • How long will I have to be in therapy?
  • Will I stop struggling with ____ after working with you?
  • How do I know this will work?
  • Will it be worth the investment of time and resources?
  • Why can’t I figure this out on my own?
  • Can talking with my friends be just as effective as therapy?
  • Why does therapy not seem to help some people?

Results. May. Vary.

Results vary because everyone has a different story, temperament, brain chemistry, family of origin – there is no one approach that fits all. If there was – we would all be doing it and there would not be such a demand for therapy, coaching, pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, mentorship and more.

A positive relationship with your therapist, evidenced based approaches, a solid understanding of trauma and the brain, specialized training in areas of focus, a beautiful environment and good client care combined with a motivated client can make a dent in the presenting goals while increasing the odds there will be some sustained benefit.

Yes, results still may vary.

The unknown is scary. But often, so is status quo.

Daring to reach out, ask for help and show up to share your story of struggle is more than half the battle towards living a life which can better tolerate uncertainty.

Instead of asking for certainty in results as you seek out professional support, require: respect, high legal and ethical standards, safety and a space that will support you while doing the messy work of being human.

And since we are all human, never forget we are all on this journey together.

With gratitude  –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

Founder + CEO of Potentia Family Therapy, Inc.

 

 

 

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Space, Agency and Calendars in 2016

design

Hello and Happy New Year!

If your email inbox and Facebook feed are anything like mine, it is full of opportunities to buy books, programs, courses and services so you can heal/fix/change what is causing you pain.

It can bit tricky discerning who or what to bring into your circle of support. Breaking through the noise of good marketing can be an exercise in mental gymnastics and restraint – especially when you desire relief asap.

Now, I am a big believer in investing in the right support to achieve my goals both personally and professionally.

Shoot, I have a stack of non-fiction books – fueled by Amazon Prime – about the brain, faith, the soul and human behavior by my bed that are at various places of being read or re-read. I am currently in the middle of consultation to become an AAMFT Approved Supervisor and also an EMDRIA Approved Consultant which has me working with some sharp and big-hearted mentors. And Potentia is inspired by the desire to be a place of refuge that offers specialized and collaborative support in a beautiful space as people rumble with their struggles and goals for a better quality of life.

Yes, desired change is most likely to happen not in a vacuum but when you have the right support surrounding you.

The New Year offers a natural time to reflect, reboot, start, stop – you get the idea.

Sometimes a new beginning can happen mid-year, too.

I had a second quarter course correction last March when I got really sick. So sick I had to cancel work and family trips and almost ended up in the hospital kind of sick.

This wake up call taught me I need to improve how I manage my allergies and recent diagnosis of asthma…. and get more rest. It was a big ah-ha moment reminding me of something I talk a lot about with my clients.

I was so used to the way my lungs were functioning that it was my normal. Like many of my clients, I have a high tolerance for pain as the normal and I was not taking time to notice, reflect and get curious about my discomfort because it was my homeostasis.

When my doctor looked at me and told me about the results of various tests and how surprised she was at all I had been doing with my current lung function, I laughed out loud. She was less amused… and the irony of it all was not apparent to her.

Yes, we all have our blind spots – even when it comes to our personal and professional loves, whatever they may be for you.

But as someone who has “shiny sparkly syndrome”, it is easy for me to get distracted by fun ideas, passions, interests and exciting opportunities.

So, I decided to a hard look at my calendar and made some big changes.

I love calendars. I have a few hard copy versions and I also have everything on my i-calendar. (This one, this one and this one are my favorites of late.)

Because my eyes have always been bigger than my calendar, I had to become better at editing, focusing and being realistic about my time because my old default was if I saw blank space on my schedule, I would fill it. Recalibrating back to my core values and some long conversations with my husband were essential during this second quarter course correction.

I shook my fists as I realized, again, how competition and scarcity sneaked their way back into my life and into my calendar. Oh, how relentless and slippery they are!

Competition and comparison are in our bones – whether you know it or not. It is a dark part of our humanity and you are fooling yourself if you think you can just “stop” competing or comparing without the investment of some serious time in practices to help redirect your default go-to mindsets. In fact, I think it is naive to think they can be eradicated from our lives entirely.

Our brains fire at such a speed that insight takes a bit to catch up before we realize the emotional tailspin we are in. It is more realistic to develop a practice to identify these beasts so you can call them out when they are trying to run your life.

Never forget: Your time and resources are precious commodities. There are billions of dollars invested to have access to your time and resources.

Which makes you pretty darn powerful, whether you believe it or not.

It may not feel like you have agency over your time and resources – especially when they are scarce due to health and life circumstances or just feeling like life is running you.

And the connection between how you manage the stressors in your life and your health, wellness and shame is crucial – or your time and resources slip away in a way that zaps you of living a life that is fulfilling and connected.

As you look at your 2016 with whatever calendar you use – make a commitment to re-evaluate how you want to use your time and resources.

If you are desiring more from your relationships, career, faith, physical health and are not sure where to start – scheduling time to invest in your desired area of growth is not a waste. And focus on one area at a time. In truth, all of the areas you desire change and growth are connected, so start one place and be steadfast.

Scheduling space to honor your priorities to: pray, write, reflect, create, play, dream, heal, grow is crucial.

That time does not need to be burdened with bullet points or to-do lists fueled by reactive “shoulds” outside of your core values. Nor does it have to be explained away or justified. You have been given agency and stewardship over your calendar.

Adjusting your expectations of all you need to do and when you need to do it by may help decrease the stronghold of perfection and scarcity mentality.

Perfectionism and scarcity may call this time indulgent and spike feelings of anxiety when your schedule is not completely booked. But if you schedule this space – just 3-5 hours a week – into your calendar to focus on what matters most to you this year, you may surprise yourself.

I ever-so-gently dare you to try this new approach to your time.

Of course, I have a bias on the importance and impact of mental health on our lives. Making time to rumble with emotional aches, loneliness, loss requires marking time off on your schedule to create space to heal instead of numbing out with the busyness of life.

Literally blocking out time on your calendar for what honors the desires of your soul is an investment. It also exponentially increases the chances you will make the time to do what you scheduled.

If you have been running at full speed for years, it will spike some anxiety in your brain as it takes time for your brain to develop a new homeostasis.

A good place to start using your calendared time of reflection is to do an inventory of where you spend your resources, your thought life and your time – it gives a good picture on what matters to you and who+what is getting the best of you.

And I often find that this data is not always in sync with core values and priorities – which is good data for further reflection.

This space is about looking at the hard things straight on and getting curious about how they are impacting your life.

As a result, new boundaries, improving tolerance of the discomfort of letting people down and (re) defining relationships may be necessary. All of these will require some space and even some support.

Consider engaging in this process with others in some capacity. It gets you out of your head and dares you to trust those who have earned the right to hear your story.

Remember – you are very powerful. Billions are invested into getting access to your time and your resources  – whether they are life giving or not.

Even if your power has been taken away from you, you can rise.

Instead of resolutions, diet programs or succumbing to the allure of quick fix programs, consider just making this space in your life – and on your calendar – to ask these questions:

  • Where do you desire change in your life?
  • Who+What is asking for your time and resources?
  • Who is even getting the opportunity to have an audience with you?
  • What is driving how you spend your time and resources?
  • What do you want shift in these areas in 2016?

Let me know what additional questions you are adding to your reflection time.

And go get 2016. The world needs you to show up in your circle of influence and make your art. Make the space – your life matters.

With gratitude –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

 

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(re) Define Failure: Reckon, Rumble, Rise, Repeat

(re) Define Failure

Four years ago this week, I attended a conference where Brené Brown was speaking on a panel. When we met afterwards, I told her I listened to her first book, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from ‘What Will Others Think’ to ‘I Am Enough’ while I ran my first half marathon. She knee slapped and about fell down laughing.

brene brown first mtg 2011
All smiles and a bit blurry…

I was so grateful to share space with a woman who cares passionately about family, faith, and making an impact on this planet through meaningful work in areas that I also care deeply about.

My respect for her research grew and a year later I would attend my first training in her work in San Antonio, TX. And four years after that first meeting, I found myself in Texas last week, yet again, sitting with my fellow The Daring Way™ Case Consultants getting trained in her latest research featured in her new book: Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. (This book is coming out August 25th – pre-order here so you can have it in your mailbox as soon as it releases! )

Rising Strong Training
Yes, I travel with sharpies!

Brené’s research calls you to do more than recite definitions and, what has become to some, trendy lingo. It inspires action… and sometimes some regret because there is no turning back from the learning process this work fosters.

Her integrity along with her talents as a communicator and leader have changed the international conversation on shame, authenticity and courage. Brené is so gifted in making complex concepts easy to understand.

But do not be fooled. Taking the insights from her research and putting them into action is nuanced, hard work and not comfortable. Not. At. All.

It takes time and effort. Addressing traumas, grief and loss are inevitable if you start the journey of developing a shame resilience practice. Facing failure, frustration and doubt is also inevitable in this work, too. Which is why the Rising Strong process so important.

I appreciate Brené clarifying in Rising Strong that her work is not a quick fix to healing but a guide to a life-long practice involving struggle, failure, fear and shame resilience – all based on the results of her research.

No matter what your brain is drawn too, there is no such thing as a quick fix to heal from pain, traumatic or distressing experiences, loss, transition, mood issues, eating disorders, and more. It just takes a life time commitment to curiosity, compassion and doing the work.

Workshops, therapy, books, programs can all be wonderful tools on the journey, but be wise as to who you invite to support you on your path. As I wrote in my last post on struggle, good marketing is just that, good marketing. Be an informed consumer of media, services and products.

Rising Strong will feel like a letter of encouragement to many of you who show up day in and day out – reckoning and rumbling with the stories you tell yourselves which are filled with inaccurate data –  validating your struggle and persistence to find a better way to engage in your life.

This work is subversive, gritty and painful at times as the message to (re) define failure pushes new edges. The rush of “Me, too!” is often followed by “What now?”. Which is why Rising Strong in such an important read.

Here are some of my favorite nuggets from Rising Strong and my training last week that are provocative conversation starters in your circles of influence:

  •  “The physics of vulnerability = If you are brave enough you will fall. Daring is saying, “I know I will eventually fail and I am all in.” p.5  If you dare to show up and be seen you will fall and fail. It is not an if, it is a when. Taking this posture challenges the stories you tell yourself about failing and instead normalizes failure as a part our. It also teases out very quickly where you have externalized your worth and value.
  • “Experience and success don’t give you easy passage through the middle space. They only grant you a little grace, a grace that whispers, This is part of the process. Stay the course.  p. 27/28 Grace, the undeserved gift from God flows deep with this work. Expertise is not the the savior in this journey, only God’s grace is what heals and offers oxygen when you feel like you are suffocating from your pain.
  • “Falling in the arena in the service of being brave is where our courage is forged.” You do not develop courage by studying it. You develop it by show up, falling and rising again. The struggle is hard as you fight to stop living from stories that are keeping you stuck.
  • “You cannot do anything brave or courageous without getting attacked. The alternative to avoiding the attack is silence – then you are complicit with the problem.” This is scary. But we are living in a time where we need less fear-based silence, less screaming, less critics and more respect+courage as we challenge harmful narratives that are taking lives and crushing souls.
  • When we go into struggle, our brain’s job is to make up a story about what is happening. The brain does not take into account the need for vulnerability and still classifies vulnerability as danger.” Building up the bandwidth to tolerate vulnerability – risk, uncertainty, emotional exposure – is a non-negotiable on the path to love and belonging (not fitting in where you are show up in life how you think others want you to be verses who you uniquely are.). That is why developing a shame resilience practice is crucial in this work.
  • “We get a dopamine rush when we find patterns that can fill in the beginning, middle and end of story” Even if the story is inaccurate, your brain wants to find a conclusion. So much so that you get a bit of a chemical boost when your brain writes an ending to a story. There is power in the stories we tell ourselves. Get curious about the stories you are telling yourself. Make sure these stories fuel bravery and courage instead of fear, shame and blame.
  • “Men and women who rise strong challenge conspiracies and confabulations (my new favorite word!) in the stories they are telling themselves.” A confabulation is when you tell a story you believe is true but it is not true. Conspiracies are based on some fact and also inaccurate data and assumptions.
  • “Sometimes we get so busy self-protecting we do not get curious… and then we protect at the expense of the other person.” Relationships are hard, messy and challenging. When you protect yourself in ways that are not reflective of your core values, through shame, silence, blame  – you often may end up hurting both yourself and someone you care about.
  • Our healing can never be dependent on our access to other people or the feedback from other people.” It is often helpful to engage with those who have hurt us in healing process but may not be possible or appropriate.
  • “Shaming someone else diminishes my humanity.” Shame is never a necessary ingredient in the healing process, though it often shows up. How we respond to shame when it surfaces can impact the trajectory of your healing process.
  • “When we allow ourselves to be defined by what everyone else thinks, we lose our capacity for courage. When we do not care what anyone thinks, we lose our capacity for connection.” These reminders are so powerful. And so you will find yourself in the grey zone of vulnerability as you turn away from the exhaustion of numbing out from caring what other people think or people pleasing and worrying what everyone else thinks.
  • “He or she who is the most willing to be uncool will gain the most from this work.” Being uncool is not about attention-seeking behavior. It is about tolerating the vulnerability of being seen and potentially misunderstood. Cool is overrated and sometimes exhausting. Laughter, song and dance fuel the freedom to (re) define cool.
  • “We tolerate physical discomfort but not emotional discomfort.” I am amazed at how so many people devalue emotional pain and see it as less-valid than physical pain. Your emotional pain deserves respect, care an attention – or it will start to run your life.
  • “Speak truth even when your voice shakes.” Speak up and inspire. Your voice is needed.
  • Trust, love, joy, creativity, innovation are all inaccessible without vulnerability. This leads to darkness.” When shame and perfection are the responses to feelings of risk, uncertainty and emotional exposure – tolerating vulnerability seems impossible and courage feels far away.

There is no room for perfection when we choose courage and normalize failure as part of the human experience. Mindy Kaling recently wrote an article in Glamour about confidence where she articulated the paradox of failure  ie: I feel better when you are failing and horrible when I am failing:

‘People get scared when you try to do something, especially when it looks like you’re succeeding. People do not get scared when you’re failing. It calms them… But when you’re winning, it makes them feel like they’re losing or, worse yet, that maybe they should’ve tried to do something too, but now it’s too late. And since they didn’t, they want to stop you. You can’t let them.”

When you are constantly thinking about what others will think if you fail – or succeed – than you are letting shame and fear drive your life while squelching your precious and unique story from being told and lived.

Yes, we are the brave and the brokenhearted. It is time to (re) Define Failure: Reckon. Rumble. Rise. Repeat.

Cheering you on –

Rebecca

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(re) Define: Resolutions

Happy New Year from Potentia 2015

This time of year is famous (or infamous) for resolutions.

Usually these resolutions involve language like:

  • more
  • less
  • start
  • stop
  • lose
  • change
  • balance
  • enough
  • no
  • yes

Goals are good. Intentions are important. Hope is crucial when we want to grow, heal and do life differently.

But sometimes we make some well-meaning errors in setting our goals, intentions, resolutions. They often are:

  • too rigid
  • unrealistic
  • not specific
  • too complicated
  • developed based what you think you need but not what you really need
  • leaning only on willpower instead of a collaborative community of support
  • not safe
  • not fun or enjoyable
  • developed out of impatience, fear or shame
  • not connected to your core values

Making desired changes in your life that are sustained need to be safe, practiced regularly and fueled by meaning and motivation.  (Click to Tweet)

Your goals, resolutions and intentions need to be inspired by your core values – not on an ideal identity you desire to hide behind as protection.

Yes, dream big.

Then scaffold your dreams into small actionable practices that will fuel more change, growth, fruits of your labors and healing.

It starts with showing up and asking for support from people you can trust.

Pacing desired change is also important when seeking sustained change.

The pain of loneliness, discomfort in your body, fear of rejection or failure can influence the resolutions you choose.

Turn away from numbing, hurting self or others and begin to build the emotional muscle to tolerate vulnerability.

Sometimes people numb out with the wrong resolutions thinking they will get sustained relief from pain if ______ happens.

What you desire to change is a very personal decision.

Desiring sustained change – not numbing out – involves leaning into vulnerability: risk, uncertainty and emotional exposure – as defined by Brené Brown.

And to be clear – there is nothing comfortable about being in the space of vulnerability.

At Potentia, we offer (re) Define Courage workshops to help people build a life long shame resilience practice so shame and non-protective fear do not run the choices you make in your life.

Our team also offers specialized support for those who desire change in their relationships with food, their body, their story and their relationships with God, self and others.

(In addition to offering individual, couples and family therapy, our team is launching several workshops this month. Make sure to save your spot soon!)

When distressing life events occur, your brain is made to move towards healing.

And when your brain gets stuck in working through the tough stuff of life, it is easy to get confused on how to deal with pain, fear, desire, hope and meaningful connection.

The psychotherapists at Potentia incorporate EMDR therapy into our work with clients so the process of getting unstuck has an evidenced-based road map customized to each client.

As you kick off 2015 with your goals, resolutions and intentions, make sure they are connected to your core values and can be regularly practiced.

If you have health or wellness related goals, contact Dr. Megan Holt for an in-person or Skype non-diet wellness assessment so you can cut through the marketing noise of the diet industry and develop goals that are best suited for your unique body and lifestyle.

And be careful to not compare your goals for change to the goals and resolutions of others.

Comparison is a general buzz kill to change.

You are the expert on you. Never forget that.

As you seek collaborative support and sustained change, the Potentia Team is here as a support and resource for you. It would be an honor to help you make 2015 a year of living in clarity and purpose.

____

What are you resolutions, goals, intentions for 2015?

What support do you need to meet your goals?

Cheering you on in 2015 –

Rebecca Bass-Ching, LMFT

 

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How is Your Sleep Hygiene?

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Note from Rebecca: Just days before Day Light Savings ends, we thought it would be good to address one of the most important tenants of health: our sleep hygiene. We are a tired nation with a high threshold for pushing through our exhaustion. But not meeting our sleep needs while trying to maintain a high level of function in all areas of our life is unsustainable over the long term. Making a commitment to change or start a new sleep hygiene habit can shift your trajectory of health and wellness for the better. Thank you, Megan, for sharing your wisdom!

———–

Humans sleep approximately 1/3 of their lives away, which equates to 27 years of life for an 82 year old.

Proper sleep has been proven to enhance mood and immune function, IQ, concentration and memory.

It also reduces risk of a long list of ailments and accidents: Heart disease, depression, obesity, diabetes, substance abuse, suicide and car accidents.

But 80% of people will have some sleep disorder during their lifetime, and persons with lower socioeconomic status are particularly disadvantaged. This makes sense as nutrition, exercise and stress all effect quality of sleep (all of which are compromised in individuals of lower SES).

So how much sleep do we need?

Everyone differs in terms of their ideal range, but 7-8 hours is a good general range. Individuals sleeping less than 5 hours/night carry a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and all-cause mortality (death).

Among the 5 stages of sleep, adequate time in REM (dream) stage is most crucial for mental tasks and memory function.

What can you do to protect your sleep?

Actions that are helpful include:

  • Having exposure to daylight/sunlight during waking hours
  • Regular exercise (promotes REM sleep)
  • Keeping room temperature cooler
  • Using the bed only for sleep and sex
  • Having a ‘wind down’ routine that may include caffeine free teas, a warm bath or a TV show

On the other hand, the following tend to interrupt sleep:

  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine
  • Sharing the bed with partners that toss, turn or snore
  • Stimulating the brain prior to bed (with reading material, work, intense/mysterious or thought provoking TV shows)
  • Alcohol (even one drink before bed for some individuals will do it, and this is especially true for females, who lose more sleep from drinking alcohol than men)
  • Perspiring/overheating
  • Having large meals within 2-3 hours of bed time (a small snack is fine)
  • Excess weight can also be associated with sleep deprivation. Not only are cortisol levels typically higher in obese persons, but the extra weight can result in snoring and sleep apnea.

For those of you more concerned about the cosmetic consequences of sleep deprivation, here are a few additional reasons to prioritize your beauty rest and improve your sleep hygiene:

  • Puffiness under the eyes, due to fluid and sodium retention
  • Skin wrinkling, as the balance between cortisol (promotes wrinkles/aging of skin) and growth hormone (protective/regenerative) is disrupted
  • Acne, also due to the increase in cortisol production
  • Reddening of eyes and dark under eye circles due to dilation of the blood vessels

How is your sleep hygiene practice?

What one change are you going to focus on to improve your sleep hygiene?

In good health –

Megan Holt, DrPH, MPH, RD

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You are invited! Potentia Celebration + Open House

I know there is never a lack of events, meetings, parties and kid activities to add to your calender but I am hoping those of you in the San Diego area can squeeze in some time to drop by our Celebration and Open House next Friday, October 24th between 4-8PM.

It will be a great time to not only see the new workshop/play therapy space and meet the new Potentia therapists but also to connect with other friends and colleagues from the community.

Great food – including a pumpkin “everything” spread – and  a chance to win some fun raffle prizes are added bonuses for stopping by our gathering.

Please register if you can attend so we can plan accordingly.

With gratitude –

Rebecca

OpenHouseFlier-graphic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Surprising Ways to Love Your Partner

Note from Rebecca: I am thrilled to introduce you to Brian Reiswig, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern. I first met Brian when he was a graduate student of mine last spring. His big heart, sharp mind, wisdom and calming presence inspired me to invite him to join the Potentia clinical team and I am so grateful he agreed to join us! He is digging deep in his training and supervision as he develops his clinical expertise to support couples, men with compulsive behaviors, trauma/EMDR and those struggling with food and body issues. I am excited so many will have a chance to learn from him via this blog in addition to his clinical work at Potentia. Welcome, Brian!
——
I recently attended a training event for couples therapists from one of the true masters in the field, John Gottman. Known for his straight-forward and practical insight about why marriages suffer and tools for making your marriage great, he’s been a pioneer in the field for more than 40 years. I showed up expecting to learn some new and powerful ways of helping couples get past pain and disconnection and nurture a loving bond. What I didn’t expect was how much his 40 years of research has revealed some insights that are counter-intuitive to what I intuitively thought what made a good marriage. Here are 5 insights from the training that will probably surprise you and will definitely help you foster a deeper, happier connection with your spouse.
 
1. The heart wants connection but the brain gets in the way.

One thing that Gottman did in his research, that most researchers don’t, is he studied what was going on inside the body during conflict not just what was going on between the couple. What he discovered was that the physiology of the brain changes drastically during high stress conflict. When we get into a fight with our loved one, our heart rate speeds up. When it crosses the 100 beats per minute line, we go into a “diffuse physiological state” and our whole body changes gears. To make things worse, our bodies start secreting adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormones) which send the message to our brains that we are in imminent danger. So, when a conversation about dirty dishes with our partner starts to get tense, the fight or flight response is triggered. The part of our brain where we listen and problem solve shuts down – right when we need it most.

Helpful tip: When you notice yourself getting upset, don’t wait to take a time out. Tell your partner you need some time to calm down, you love him/her, you really want to hear their point of view and be able to take responsibility for yours. Then set a time limit on this break – less than 24 hours. This break isn’t a strategy for abandonment, but one for closeness. Then go practice a calming skill and take a break from thinking about the problem. If you keep thinking about the problem you actually keep your brain in an escalated state.

2. Solving all your problems won’t solve all your problems.

Another counter-intuitive discovery that Gottman made in his research is that conflicts are not resolved by solving problems. Gottman observed that over time, the majority of conflicts in a marriage (about 69%) are never “solved.” Ever. So, for example, the conversation you avoid every year about whose family to visit for Christmas probably isn’t going away. Most couples never finds a solution that puts their big issues to rest permanently. There can be ominous sense of impending doom that comes with unsolved problems between you and your beloved. The difference between the happy marriages and the unhappy ones is that the happier couples make peace with having some issues unresolved and continuing to work through them.

Helpful Tip: Remember that all marriages struggle with unresolved conflict. When you and your partner can’t find a comfortable middle ground to a longstanding conflict, the struggle can grow and grow until if feels like the relationship hangs in the balance. Unsolved problems have a way of feeling like a bad omen, foretelling the demise of your union… unless you remember that all couples have unanswered problems. Just knowing that this kind of struggle is normal takes the emotional charge out of the problem and allows couples to approach their problems from a not-so-catastrophic point of view.

3. Conflict isn
’t the problem.
The day after I proposed to my wife, Sarah, we took a 7 hour road trip to visit family and celebrate the engagement. On that road trip I had a very specific itinerary that we would take advantage of the face time and discuss our vision for our married life together. One of the goals that I had for our marriage, which I had gleamed from endless hours reading self-help books and listening to inspiring speakers, was to never fight. And yes, I was serious. I’ll never forget her face when I explained my expectations, like she was looking at a little boy who wanted to be superman when he grew up. She smiled and gently said, “That’s sweet, but I think we’re probably going to fight sometimes.”  If you just read my reflections on my engagement story and thought my marriage vision was a bit ridiculous – congratulations! You’re way ahead of where I was back then. But it illustrates a myth that I think many buy into and that the idea of conflict is inherently bad.

Helpful Tip:
At it’s core, conflict is healthy. Conflict means you’ve discovered a part of your partner that you don’t yet understand. Conflict is an opportunity for new depths of intimacy. Conflict is an opportunity to know your partner better. But you can get derailed when you bump into those opportunities and mistake them for threats. According to Gottman, conflict is all about listening. Instead of listening to understand, many often speak to be understood or to prove a point. Some just speak to shut down their partner. It is an absolute game-changer if  – in the moment  you realize have entered into the misunderstanding zone – you can remind yourself that all you have to do in this moment is listen. The understanding that comes with listening will ease the tension, even if you do not find a solution to the “problem.” 

4. Friendship is more important than love
As it turns out, the Beatles were wrong. Love is not all you need. If fact, its not even the most important thing you need. Many ask me what could be more important than love for a happy marriage. The answer is friendship. If love is the strength of your commitment to your spouse, than friendship is the strength of your connection. There are a whole lot of people that I love, who I have no interest in spending time with, no sense of safety in sharing my heart with and no special inside culture that is just our own. There are people in my family who I love but I am not really friends with. On the other hand, within my sacred group of people I consider my dear friends, there is no one I do not love. Friendship is the substance of healthy intimacy.

Helpful Tip:
Gottman has discovered that the average U.S. couple with school-age children spends about 35 minutes a week in actual conversation. And most of that time is spent discussing who is going to do what, when, etc. With that sobering statistic in mind, it is no mystery many struggling couples report they love their spouse but when asked about the status of their friendship, they are not as positive. Perhaps a more useful benchmark to the health of our marriages is not “how are we keeping the romance alive?” but instead “how are we keeping the friendship alive?”

5. The landscape is always changing
Building on this idea of friendship as core to marital health, Gottman urges couples to think of their partner as an ever-changing landscape. Just because you got to know them in a deep and personal way while you were dating, or before you started that new job, does not mean you your sense of knowing them is the same today.

Helpful Tip:
Gottman proposes thinking about your knowledge of your spouse as a “love map” that you must constantly update. Building a love map is not a task that you complete. Instead, It is a task that is an ongoing practice. Building a love map is the process of rediscovering who your partner is, what are their values, their beliefs, their preferences, what makes them laugh and what keeps them up at night. Ask open-ended questions and listen to the answers.  Asking questions every week about life, goals, dreams, fears and disappointments gives you and your partner a chance to be known and you can show each other that your love is not based on the bond you shared years ago but the one you share today.
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I would love to know which Gottman insight resonated with you the most? Which one surprised you?

Please share your thoughts, reflections and questions in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you.
– Brian
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Potentia is 6!

Potentia is turning 6

Several years ago, I had this picture in my head of a beautiful space where people could receive collaborative and specialized care all under the same roof. Six years ago this month, Potentia’s incorporation papers were filed and the dream started to take fruition.

I can laugh now but looking back six years ago, things were a little nutty. My first born was just a little over 2 months and I was clumsily learning how to integrate all of my new loves and passions on very little sleep.

Today, I am a little more rested. And my family has grown along with Potentia.

I am in awe and filled with gratitude looking at how the seed of a vision planted in my heart + mind has turned into something so much more.

As we celebrate our six year milestone, we are in the process of expanding: more office space, new clinical team members – including two male therapists – and new service offerings such as individual and group consultations on EMDR and Eating Disorders (CEDS) along with Child Centered Play Therapy.

Even our website is in the process of getting freshened up.

Whew!

And I am pleased to introduce you to five therapists who are a part of this season of Potentia’s growth: Moe Perdomo, Hannah Branch, Brian Resiwg, Kayla Walker and Roxanne Strauss.

Look at them all spiffy here…

Interns formal 2014

And here they are showing their brave and getting a little silly. Silly is so good for the soul!

Interns silly 2014

These new interns are joining me and our veteran Potentia team members:

The Potentia team is equipped with an understanding of:

  • the brain
  • non-diet approaches to wellness
  • the power of your story (owning, respecting and telling it)
  • the influences of shame and vulnerability

so we can be the best support to people seeking meaning in their struggles and desiring sustained relief from their pain.

All of our psychotherapy clinicians are trained in EMDR, which is an approach that helps people who are stuck because of tough life events, anxiety, depression, compulsive behaviors, loss, blocking beliefs, perfectionism and more. We also have therapists who offer specialized support with:

  • Shame Resilience and The Daring Way TM method
  • Food and Body Issues
  • Couples Issues and Premarital Counseling
  • Teen and Family Issues
  • Transition
  • Pastors Kids and Missionary Kids

I am excited to see where this now collective dream takes all of us as we continue to trust, pray, learn, grow and serve.

And to those of you who have a dream on your heart, respect it. Sketch or write it out. Share it with someone who will not talk about all the barriers to your dream but instead be a support to it.

Be careful to not compare it, minimize it or let the desire for certainty squelch your hope. Your dream is precious and it is placed on your heart for a purpose. It may not be logical or make sense. It may be painful to be in the inbetween of it being unfulfilled.

I get it. I wrestled with all of this over the years. Still do. The waiting, the tests of faith, the investment of time and resources, the trust are the refining part of the dream. Pace yourself and stay the course.

Cheering you and your dream on –

Rebecca

PS – Please make sure you are on our email list so you can stay up to date on our offerings, events, blog posts and receive an invitation to our upcoming  fall open house.

 

 

 

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America’s Love/Hate Relationship with Saturated Fats By Dr. Megan Holt, DrPH, MPH, RD


Let’s start off with an overview of saturated fatty acids, and how they differ from poly or monounsaturated fatty acids.

Saturated fatty acids (SFA’s) have the following characteristics distinguishing them from other fatty acids (trans, monounsaturated & polyunsaturated):

  • solid at room temperature
  • occur naturally in foods
  • referred to as ‘saturated’ due to their having no double bonds along the carbon chains that comprise these saturated fatty acids

Unsaturated oils, on the other hand, are liquid at room temperature, primarily found in higher concentrations in plant sources (with the exception of fatty fish) and have one (mono) or multiple (poly) double bonds along the carbon chain.

Contrary to popular belief, foods do not consist of one type of fatty acid. Rather, foods are composed of varying percentages of unsaturated and saturated fatty acids.

For example, SFA’s comprise roughly 13% of the fatty acids in olive oil, and 65% of the SFA’s in butter.

SFA’s are found in higher amounts in dairy products (ex: cream, butter, milk, cheese) as well as in meats (bacon, sausage, chicken fat, mutton), ghee, suet and lard.

Palm oil, palm kernal, coconut and cottonseed oils contain a larger percentage of SFA’s (relative to the other plant based fats), though they lack the cholesterol contained in animal sources.

Examples of SFA’s include:

  • lauric (palm kernal oil, coconut oil, vegetable shortening and is also used in )
  • palmitic (palm oil, tallow, processed foods to enhance texture)
  • myristic (palm kernal oil, coconut oil, butter)
  • stearic acids (cheese, sausage, bacon, ribs, beef/ground beef, candy, cocoa butter)

These fatty acids are also commonly used in conjunction with sodium hydroxide, creating a product commonly found in soaps, shampoos and cosmetics (ex: sodium laurate and sodium palmitate).

For several decades, foods high in SFA’s were demonized by public health and nutrition experts, citing numerous studies suggesting that SFA’s were disease promoting.

Saturated fats were linked to increased LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol), a primary risk factor for heart disease.

Current American Heart Association guidelines suggest limiting calories from saturated fat to less than 7% per day (or roughly 16g or 140 calories).

SFA’s were somewhat vindicated when evidence emerged several years ago suggesting that trans fatty acids (partially hydrogenated oil) were more offensive, as they not only raise LDL, but decrease HDL (or ‘good’ cholesterol).

Recently, however, results of a meta-analysis of 72 studies (including both observational studies and randomized controlled trials) on saturated fat intake and heart disease published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found no association with SFA intake and risk of heart disease – basically stating saturated fats were found to have no influence, positively or negatively, on heart disease.

The results were highly publicized, and largely misconstrued by media.

Results of the published study actually read as follows:

“Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats.”

Critics of the study, including nutrition experts from the Harvard School of Public Health (one of whom actually authored the study) are calling for a retraction or revision of the paper.

Critics have pointed to the limitations of meta-analyses as one potential problem, as numerous studies are combined and summarized, despite vast differences in methodologies (particularly across nutrition literature).

They also cite conflicting findings from numerous large scale population studies that link plant based/vegetarian diets (and lower intake of animal products) with health and longevity (Framingham, Adventist Health Study, China Study).

Another author (there were fourteen) has stood by the study’s findings, but insists that the conclusion of the meta analysis only suggested that we need further research to better understand the relationship between SFA’s and heart disease.

She has also supported continued adherence to American Heart Association’s parameters for SFA intake, stating that relaxing the guidelines would be premature at this point.

There are a number of studies in progress looking at the influence of particular saturated fatty acids on health outcomes, inspired by recent findings that suggest that all fatty acids are created equally.

The results of Annals of Internal Medicine study are intriguing indeed, and warrant further attention.

But until we have more evidence, the large majority of experts recommend continuing to keep SFA intake to a minimum and acquiring dietary fat from plant based sources (examples include olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds). We must also consider the steep environmental cost of meat consumption (10-15 pounds of grain is required to produce 1 pound of meat).

Bottom line: It’s a bit too soon to begin piling meat and cheese on your plate, but the results do suggest that more work needs to be done before we fully understand the relationship between SFA’s and heart disease.

And please be cautious when relying on media to interpret results of complex studies.

What can we conclude from the referenced study and other similar studies on SFA’s and health?

  • It seems that not all SFA’s are ‘equal’, and the way that they influence disease risk is not well understood and deserves further attention, so avoid dogmatic teachings around good food/bad food.
  • While we seek to better understand the SFA/health relationship and await further study results, please still proceed with caution when adding SFA’s to your intake.
  • Foods that are high in SFA’s (meats, dairy) are also often high in preservatives (and other artificial fillers) and sodium. Quality of meat/dairy DOES have a meaningful effect on the nutrient density, so going organic/grass fed IS worthwhile if you’re able.
  • Good nutrition is a complex picture with many shifting parts, and research is moving away from studying the influence of single nutrients on health outcomes, so be wary of these kinds of studies.
  • Lean on a plant based diet for necessary fats and proteins such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains (budget friendly AND protective), and supplementing with high quality (organic/grass fed) meat and dairy products when you do want to include animal fats.

Questions, thoughts and reflections? Please post them below. I look forward to continuing this important discussion with you.

In good health –

Megan


Study Reference:
Rajiv Chowdhury, Samantha Warnakula, Setor Kunutsor, Francesca Crowe, Heather A. Ward, Laura Johnson, Oscar H. Franco, Adam S. Butterworth, Nita G. Forouhi, Simon G. Thompson, Kay-Tee Khaw, Dariush Mozaffarian, John Danesh, Emanuele Di Angelantonio; Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2014 Mar; 160(6):398-406.

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I choose respect over body shame – will you join me?

I choose respect (over body shame)

 

February is often a month dedicated to bringing awareness to food and body issues, with the last week of the month specifically focused on Eating Disorder Awareness.

I have been a big supporter of this time of year for the last decade. There is such a need for more understanding, awareness and education on eating disorders and related issues. They are deadly, misunderstood and too often unintentionally perpetuated by many who mean to help those struggling with these issues.

Whether you have a history of struggling with disordered eating, negative body image or are really passionate about wellness, sometimes you may have a bad body image day, week, month or more.

In a culture where a good portion of the few thousand messages coming at us a day are focused on our body, health, and image, it is hard to not internalize some of the scarcity, comparison and shame hurled at us.

So, even if you are at a place where you can generally say, “I am ok as I am — mind, body and soul” it seems completely understandable to me that there are seasons, bumps in the road per se, where your relationship with your body is not always full of love.

Many in recovery are ashamed and fearful of having a season where their old ways of thinking and being make a comeback. So the masks of “everything is perfect” go up and the fear of showing vulnerability spikes.

I started seeing some masks pop up in my clients and friends hiding the fear of being seen struggling; not having it all together; not being seen as holy enough…

We can’t force a love relationship with our body. Building or rebuilding trust with your body takes time. Eating disorders, chronic illness, abuse, depression, anxiety, and shame induced by cultural ideals of beauty all can rob you of your ability to trust your body.

So many people have a hard time loving their body, let alone liking it. Sometimes you have to start from a place of respect before you move to love.  

I hear many share their frustration with how body-focused they are and offer a lot of self-judgement because their brain is stuck obsessing about what the scale says, what the mirror reflects, and what is eaten.

Food and body issues are real. Call it what you want — I think it is time to redirect the judgements that pop up about these struggles and try to really understand what is at the root of the pain.

From my perspective, when someone’s sense of comfort, peace and wellness is attacked, it impacts all other areas of their life. These are not trivial, self-indulgent, self-absorbed issues.

In an effort to debunk the stigma around body image struggles and normalize these common struggles, I gathered colleagues, teachers, parents, pastors, students, and business owners for an “I choose respect” photo shoot at Potentia.

We are posting an “I choose respect” feature photo every day this month on the Facebook page and the response has been so encouraging.

And here is a special gift for you inspired by I choose respect over body shame month: our Respect Your Body Creed.

(click to download)
(click to download)

What is your respect your body creed or mantra?

Share in the comments below and, if you feel bold, post a picture here or on our Facebook page letting me how you choose respect over body shame.

Cheering you on —

Rebecca

 

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