Blogging is hard but being human is freeing.

I struggle to maintain a blog. That is evident by the time between my last post and this one and that last post and previous entries. I could say it’s because I am super busy. Too busy focused on more important priorities; career development, private practice building, family, personal relationships, health and wellness, out living and experience life instead of writing a blog. I am focused at times on these things, but I must be honest here with you, the reader and myself; I am not too busy to write a blog. I just struggle with what to write about and how to write it. I don’t mind writing. I did a lot of it in my 6 years in college, but I do not find that it comes easily to me. Or, maybe it does and my real difficulty is in how I judge myself as a writer. The perfectionist in me struggles to value the process of learning and growing; practicing to improve your skill and making mistakes. The counselor in me teaches clients the importance of this process, having self compassion and letting go of the idea that perfect exists in this world. Rather contradictory, wouldn’t you say?  Then I remind myself that I am a human being first and foremost, before I impose the perfectionistic expectation and the counselor role. I have lived a flawed life and I have to wake up everyday and work at the internal dialogue I carry around with me as I go about my day. I believe I will work on this my entire life. I have also experienced tremendous improvement in that internal dialogue and the power it can have over one’s sense of self. And I believe I will continue to improve these things until I die. Being human is a messy and beautiful thing. I didn’t become a counselor because I have life “all figured out”. I become a counselor to muddle through this life experience along side my fellow humans. It is important to me that I let others see that I have challenges too. I struggle with allowing myself to be flawed, to not produce perfect blog entries, artwork, clinical assessments and diagnoses, etc….. Today, I tackled that idea of a perfect blog entry straight on and conquered it, because you got to read this! Tomorrow will be another day to continue the challenge.

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Update On Where I Have Been

DSCN5149When I opened my blog several weeks ago, as I was working on my website for a counseling practice, I saw that my last post was over 2 years ago! Wow! How much has changed since then.

The last post I made was on the topic of disappointment. Well, that disappointment over a lost employment opportunity passed and I found work as a Child and Family Therapist at a community mental health agency. I provided counseling services to children, teenagers, foster and biological parents. I found the work extremely rewarding and valuable to my growth as a mental health counselor. Working with various developmental stages of children gave me a depth of knowledge regarding human development and how an individual’s childhood experiences and/or traumas can leave a lasting impression throughout life. After nearly a year in the position, I made the difficult decision to move from Central Oregon to the Willamette Valley, where I had grown up. I was saddened to leave my clients and the work I was doing, but I has excited for new opportunities. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I was given at the mental health agency and everything I learned from the children and their families.

I am now living in the Portland metro area and have been working for a community agency that provides outpatient mental health services (along with many other services) as an intake/enrollment clinician, where I conduct mental health assessments and develop a diagnosis for adults, adolescents and children. I recently transitioned in my position with the agency to on-call, as I work toward building a private practice in the Portland area. I am frightened and excited all in one at this adventure. Facing many fears, I am pushing forward to offer my counseling services to others. I look forward to see how the future unfolds.

So, 2 years have brought much change, as the human experience does. We are not meant to stagnate in life. Sometimes it happens and we are not sure what to do to become unstuck. However, none of us are immune from the unexpected, unplanned for changes; death of family members or close friends, illness or major health issues, loss of employment, down turns in the economy; and unfortunately, these event are inevitable in life. Learning how to be prepared for unexpected changes and how to create directions of change that you are wanting to make in your life is what I wish to help others do. I do not claim to be perfect at change, but based upon my own experiences in life and what I learned from them, along with the knowledge I gained becoming a clinical mental health counselor, I do believe I have something to offer others. I am really excited to be given the opportunity to serve others in my life.

Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog – Have a great day!

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Disappointment

I have not written in a while because I have been struggling with sadness over the rejection of a job I was hopeful of getting. I waited several weeks over the Christmas holiday waiting anxiously to find out in the first week of January that I was not receiving a job offer. So the topic of disappointment is at the fore front of my mind. I saw this article on http://www.tinybuddha.com today and it was a figurative slap to the face ( I can see Cher slapping my face and saying “Snap out of it!”).  I created my own disappointment based on my expectations. I have been set back on my heels and am now working to find my way out of this space so that I can move forward in my life. 

My experience with disappointment is nowhere near the experience of the author of the article (Susan Jones). Her struggles with her Crohn’s disease during her pregnancy and the physical pain that she has experienced in her life would be understandably frustrating to anyone. So the fact that she can have the introspection and find the positives in her experience is inspiring. So, I wanted to share with others. We are all living our lives and doing the best we can at any given time and one of my favorite aspects of this human experience is our ability to learn from each other. Here’s to continuing to learn from each other!

http://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-release-disappointment-and-thrive-when-life-isnt-fair/

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Why you’ll find freedom in forgiveness by Ally Hamilton

I wanted to share this article because it is beautifully written and I subscribe to Ms. Hamilton’s way of thinking about forgiveness.

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Happiness needs no reason

Happiness needs no reason

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Actively Working On

What does it mean to actively work on one’s perfectionism and vulnerability?

This summer, I stumbled upon Brene Brown and her work in shame research and vulnerability. Brene became popular when she did a TED talks several years ago on vulnerability.

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

I came across Brene’s book titled “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t: Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy and Power” in a bookstore and the title caught me.  

As an introvert, I spend a lot of time up in my own head. I long for deep human connections, but struggle with my nature tendency to be involved in my internal workings; my thoughts and emotions.

I spent a lot of time thinking something was wrong with me.

So, the title of Brene’s book spoke to me and I purchased it.

That purchase opened me up to a whole new awareness about myself. I learned about the thousands of interviews Brene did with a wide variety of people in the population on shame. It was an eye opening experience to me.

Maybe it is the timing of when I read this information in my life. Maybe I was ready to receive what was being said. I don’t know.

But, what she was presenting hit home for me. I have been living with a lot of shame. Shame that I am inflicting upon myself because I am afraid of being vulnerable. What Brene was presenting in her book was the reality that we all struggle with shame and being vulnerable. Suddenly I realized “It isn’t just me”

Introverted or Extroverted, no one is immune from shame. It is a human experience.

You may be asking “what is Brene’s definition of shame?”.

“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”

She explains how shame is different from guilt.

            “Guilt is holding an action or behavior up against our ethics, values and beliefs.”

Brene writes “Shame is about who we are. Guilt is about our behavior”.

When I read this I reflected on it. I was raised Roman Catholic in a small community of devout German-American families. I was raised to contemplate my actions and to feel bad for them if they deviated from the doctrine of my religion. But, as a young girl I did not know the difference between guilt and shame. In fact, I believed they were synonymous.  

So, this new understanding of these words, opened up a door for me.

Shame is isolating. It separates us from others. Shame makes us place a greater value on other people’s impressions of us, instead of being authentically ourselves. We become too busy meeting everyone else’s expectations, we forget who we are, and maybe for some, we may not even know who we are. Shame can isolate us so much that we fear vulnerability, which is an antidote for shame. Can you see the vicious cycle that is created?  

With Brene’s help, I uncovered my shame. I throw back the heavy tarp that I had thrown over it. I began to sort through it. This sorting will take time because it is a process of understanding what exactly I am looking at. It took over 40 years to acquire all of this shame, so it will take some time to understand it, but it is a huge relief to know that I can learn how to let it go.  

And with my letting go, has come a renewed connection to my religion and my spirituality. It was not the fault of my Catholic upbringing for my shame. It was mine for continuing to perpetuate what I interpreted. I accept personal responsibility for my interpretations and I am incredible grateful that I can learn to see things from various perspectives.  

To my fellow counselor colleagues, what resonated with me from Brene’s writing was this statement, “If we can’t talk about shame and examine the impact it has in our lives, we certainly can’t be helpful to others”. 

 

References

Brown, Brene (2007), “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Telling The Truth About      Perfectionism, Inadequacy and Power “, New York: Penguin/Gotham Books.

Other Recommended reading from Brene Brown: 

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

COUNSELORS: This is a great book to recommend to clients.  You could work through the various topics together and assign homework.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way we Live, Love, Parent and Lead  

 

 

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Seasons = Change

Just like the seasons of nature, people experience change.

The leaves on the trees every autumn go through their routine of changing color and falling to the ground.  Some leaves are blown off early on a windy day, others hold on longer and change 2-3 different fall shades before joining the other leaves in letting go of the branch and drifting down to the ground.  Whether the leaf fall off is not an option. They all will in time and in their own way.

Some people love the autumn season and embrace the change from summer weather and activities for the beauty and pace of autumn. Other people dread the loss of summer and go begrudgingly into the autumn season. They maybe foreseeing the coming of winter’s cold and lazy character and resist. But, not every year may bring the same reaction to the season’s changing.

One might experience the birth of a child in winter one year that will change everything.  Someone else may experience a loved one’s death in the summer which could change their experience of summertime.  It’s learning to accept that change will happen and understanding how to control one’s perception of it.

Whether we chose to make a change or change just happens to us, it is an inevitability of our existence. We can fight it or we can learn how to embrace it, just like experiencing the seasons of nature every year.

Change does not have to be a frightening reality. It can be a beautiful thing if we learn how to meet change from a place of strength and courage.  We have a choice in our perception of what occurs.

So, why am I going on about the inevitability of change?!  I have resisted a lot of changes in my life. I have failed time and time again to embrace what was happening and caused myself more pain than anyone else ever did in my life.  I was fighting something that would continue to come at me as long as I am alive.

Could I do something else besides fighting it? YES!

I could learn how to see the beauty in it occurring.

I could relinquish judgment of it and be curious of the change.

I could learn how to avoid attachment to certain outcomes and learn to overcome fears.

I could value change and look forward to it.

The action of embracing change is a practice. It is a day to day decision one makes to be open to change and what it might offer. Sometime it will be simple and easy and other times, it will be the hardest choice you will make to accept the change or to decide to make the change because of the consequences of it; loss of a loved one, loss of a job, a home, stability. It will require every fiber of your being to not be crushed, destroyed by what the change has done to your life, your future, your sense of happiness.

So, think about nature and its patterns of change. The seasons will continue to come, whether they bring a mild season or a harsh one from year to year. We will continue to experience changes in our lives, whether we initiate them or not. So, just like winter will come and bring with it cold temperature, artic winds, snow and ice, change will occur. How we react to it is based on how we view it. If we see it as part of our human experience, we can approach it with greater acceptance. It can pass with less resistance and we can move on to experience other seasons. Remind yourself – this too shall pass.

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