Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Improving Communicating after Breakups

Communication can be a challenge no matter the circumstances. It's especially difficult if emotions are running high. If you are recently divorced you most likely have run into problems in this department.  The suggestions that I have will not be as helpful if your ex is under the influence of substances, or if they are the reincarnation of Stalin! There are limits for everything...
That being said, the suggestions are simple, but challenging to put into practice.
To begin with, it would be helpful if you created a Persona for this new stage of your life.  A Persona is the mask you wear in different settings; you have a "Party Persona", a "Work Persona" etc. Create one that has nothing to do with being a victim. If you have one that feels like it's problem-solving focused and cooperative, use that one. Put on your Cooperative Persona and ... TRY TO COOPERATE!  Notice if you had a physical aversion to this idea just now after reading. Take a deep breath if you did, and have faith that things will get better.
Here are a few suggestions on how to go about practicing this. First off, reconnect with the memory of falling in love and marrying this person. That person may not be visible any longer, but surely some qualities are still there. This is why it was so hard for you to leave them in the first place. So take some time and remember the human-being behind the betrayal, or the anger, or the frustration. When you're talking to your ex, try to remember this person. Attempt to leave your grievances and betrayal at the door.  Make the effort to remember the likable human-being underneath. Find yourself a good therapist who can help you clear up all of your toxic feelings toward the person so that it will less effect your interactions with him/her.
Prevent yourself from shifting into hostility, arguments, passive-aggressive responses, or bitterness. Stay with the persona of "cooperation". If the other party won't play along, be okay with walking away and letting them know that you will try this again another time. A helpful resource is a book series called "Nonviolent Communication" by Marshall Rosenberg. Reading it can help you become more skillful at communicating.
You once loved this person enough to try for a life together. That part of your life is still worth honoring. If you need to fake the attitude until it comes more naturally, do so. It's the anger and hurt that your ego and heart have suffered that prevents decent, effective communication. Stop operating from your woundedness. Notice I've said nothing about forgiveness here. You can make room for that later.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

How to handle being a target of gossip

It's perfectly human to want to experience acceptance and feel liked by others. But at some point in time you will fail in this pursuit. Whether in the workplace, at school, or on social media, you are bound to be on the receiving end of gossip, slander or a personality conflict. Automatically, you will want to defend yourself, or want to win the person over. But sometimes this isn’t plausible, safe, or in your best interest. My field of counseling is one of many where the ethics of confidentiality prevent us from telling “our side” of the story. In the work place, or at school, retaliation may add fuel to the fire, making the situation worse and even unsafe. 

I often think of the Gospel of Matthew as helpful in situations like this...where Jesus teaches "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; but I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also”.  To me, this teaching is about staying in your integrity. To be on the defensive robs us of our power and hands it over to our perpetrator. Here are a few ideas to help restore your inner sanctity if you have been wronged in some way.

In Buddhism, Equanimity refers to the state of being calm in the midst of difficulty. This state of mind is cultivated through mindfulness; one such meditation is to imagine the person who has created your suffering as a being who, just like you, experiences love, joy, as well as pain, lose, etc. They too, suffer and  have been victims of unkindness. Practice this daily for a few minutes and you may begin to feel the shifting of the struggle. The perspective of feeling like a victim of an angry, or mean spirited person shifts to the perspective of being fundamentally alike and thus they hold no power over you.
There is an old Chinese proverb: “Slander cannot destroy an honest man; when the flood recedes the rock is there".
While it is painful to feel a target of untruth and gossip we must attempt to preserve what is true in ourselves and live inside our integrity. When the flood water of gossip dies, the truth of who you are remains. Even if you alone know it to be so.

Here is another thought; pick three people to tell your story to and only speak of it to those three. Author, Carolyn Myss recommends using this as a guide, so as to not give all your power away to an unpleasant event.  Choose a few safe people to unburden to and then choose not to talk about it anymore- let it go. You can do a ritual around letting go, such as writing a letter to the person and burning the letter,weeding out your garden and let the weeks be the negative person, or cleaning your closet and envisioning cleaning out the negative feelings.
My final contribution to this topic is to make it a point to not participate in malicious gossip, or slander. Do your best to not pass ugliness forward. If you need to complain about someone, do so with the awareness that there are 3 sides to any story; yours, theirs and, somewhere in the middle; the truth.  As parents, teach your kids that words hurt and words have power, so wield them carefully. The challenge for all of us is practicing how to speak our truth while attempting to keep from squelching someone else’s spirit.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Kids being helped by horses in Equine Assisted Counseling:

Equine Assisted Counseling can be so effective for a number of reasons.
The greatest cause of it's effectiveness is the bond factor that is right there at the core of us all. We need to bond and feel connected to others including nature and animals. When we learn to connect safely to an animal the ability to have safe human connections follows. 
The horse is a non-judgmental, feedback provider. They respond to our emotions, especially our strong ones like fear and anxiety and doubt.  The therapist uses this information from the horse to get to the bottom of what is going on with in the child. Feelings are sometimes hard to describe; the horse takes what is felt, but not stated verbally and expresses it for a person through it’s behavior. 
In this work we also find metaphors and people love metaphors! The horse is big; so are our problems, the horse ignores us, people sometimes ignore us, the horse needs a lot of care, people need a lot of care. These parallels are being recognized constantly in Equine Counseling.
Let’s not underestimate the power of fun and adventure. Being with the horse is enjoyable, it is even magical for a lot of people. It is also a perfect vehicle for increasing the ability to stay calm and regulate our anxiety quickly. We learn to be calm for the horse; what a powerful motivator.
Learning to manage and direct a horse is an incredible confidence booster.
In a traditional Cognitive Behavioral Approach Model a client who is struggling with believing in herself may be asked to list reasons she should have more confidence. In Equine Assisted Counseling the client would be asked to say these reasons out loud while leading a horse around a ring. The horse won’t follow the client if they don’t really believe what they are saying. As soon as the client truly believes in herself the horse will respond differently. 
These are different ways to interact with and relate to a horse according to  Dr. Kay Trotter author of “Equine Assisted Counseling” :
  • Tactile and touching: Includes grooming or giving the horse a massage. Interacting with such large animals empowers the client while increasing self-esteem and self-confidence. The rhythmic motion of grooming can also be soothing and calming for both the horse and client.
  • Verbal: The way the client speaks to the horse can reveal how the individual relates to other people.
  • Riding and groundwork: Leading the horse from the ground or in the saddle can provide insight into a client’s sense of power or helplessness.

Equine assisted therapy offers kids with emotional and behavioral issues a safe environment in which to work through issues of fear, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, poor communication and much more. By teaching the child how to work with and communicate with the horse, the therapist will be directly and indirectly teaching the child how to apply these same skills in inter-personal relationships and build upon their relationship with the “Self”.

For more information on Equine Assisted Counseling contact Tanya at tanya@newlevelcounseling.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Anger Can Be A Tool For Change

Anger, especially for women, gets a bad-rap.  Studies show that women do a great deal of tap dancing to avoid expressing anger.  We may feel comfortable enough feeling the anger, but it is not always clear to us women how we should express it.  Often, anger is disguised and shows up through tears, submission, withdrawal, self deprecation, even despondency. When our fuse is at it's end there may be a scene with shouting and blaming.  None of these responses are helping people harness the power behind anger.

Yes, anger is powerful.  That might be one reason why women are not comfortable feeling it.  Some people aren't comfortable with that sort of power.  Women are historically conditioned to be more pleasing and caring and thus don't "do" anger.  In Harriet Goldhor Lerner's book "The Dance of Anger", she explores why women collectively have this unfulfilled relationship with anger.  We live in a culture that doesn't value angry women and so we aren't taught how to manage or communicate this emotion effectively.  Women usually don't think anger is an acceptable feeling and strive to "rise above it".

True, screaming like an angry child doesn't usually work for adults, but when harnessed effectively anger becomes more about asserting oneself, righting a wrong, and reorganizing the balance of power.  When we work with our anger it can become our ally in our pursuit for fulfilling our needs.  Anger tells us when change is in order. When an individual attends to their anger with respect and acceptance it can be one of the most motivating, life altering states of consciousness.

Here are four steps to take in order to make anger more effective in your life...

To begin with, try taking a breath and consciously recognizing that you are angry.  Allow yourself to be okay with simply feeling the anger. 

Next, ask yourself what is making you angry; what is the belief behind the anger...this is harder than it sounds and takes some practice.  Rather than staying stuck on the view that a person made you angry, try asking what about this person has violated a belief or principle you have.  It is your anger; recognize that it is about you. "Anger is a tool for change when it challenges us to become more of an expert on the self and less of an expert on others" (Harriet Goldhor Lerner).  

Thirdly, take responsibility for getting your needs met. Affirm them to either yourself or verbally to the person with whom you are in conflict with.  Speak up before you build resentment.

Lastly, be prepared to confront. Even if you do it with the jitters or an edge to your voice.  You don't have to say it perfectly the first time; strive to make your position clear.  Feel free to phrase your dialogue with, "This is difficult for me to address, but"...

It can be helpful to substitute anger for an alternative variation like assertiveness when you are struggling with discomfort around feeling anger.  Remind yourself that assertiveness is a positive and accepted expression of anger.  This may help you become more comfortable with your experience around anger. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Artistic Soul

            I recently had the privilege of meeting an acclaimed poet. A neighbor, David Bottoms, the current “Poet Laureate” of Georgia honored our small neighborhood book club by attending our meeting. I came away from a lovely evening of poem reading and discussion with the affirmative reminder that the soul needs to express itself, and artful expression accomplishes this communication like no other media. The creative arts allow us to tap into the numinous nature of our soul. 
            Creative expression helps lay the pavers toward wholeness and connects us to that which is greater than our small ego consciousness. In my work I am always reminded of the healing power found within the arts.  Children, perhaps because they are still fresh from the Source of all Life, seem to need the arts like they need fresh air and love. They naturally tune into and are drawn to these forms of self-expression. When words evade us, visual art fills in the gaps both for communication and self-understanding. 
          Teenagers with their changing bodies, brains and worlds, seem to find such ease in exploring dance, poetry, music and art. They feel their emotions so deeply at this juncture in their lives. This can be quiet overwhelming for them. Art lends itself with ease as a means to express the torrent of emotions and helps teens to make sense of their changing experiences.
            It is as adults that we commonly abandon our creative selves.
This can often lead to melancholy, depression, and anxiety. As adults we still have so much to gain from our artistic pursuits. Our artistic impulses beckon us to attend to them and act on them, for these energies arise from secret springs within our unconscious. They give voice, however faint and mysterious to the inner spirit that is trying to make itself known to us. 

Tanya Kuschnitzky MA.Ed. LPC

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Tips on Co-Creating the LIfe you Desire

How much influence do you feel you have in your life?  How would it feel if you decided to think of yourself as a co-creator of your life story?

The concept of being a co-creator fills us with a sense of power and motivation.  It gives us a feeling that not everything is left up to chance.  It essentially means that you help to create what happens in your life.  There are other undetermined forces at work that shape your life, but you as a co-creator assist in molding and forming the events, like fingers in clay; to sculpt what you imagine.  

The ability to set goals, feel motivation and confidence is alive and thriving in those who have an internal locus of control (perception of control for one's own life and action).  A belief that the events in their life don't just happen to them by mischance but rather because of the choices they did or didn't make, provides people with a greater self esteem and less anxiety than those who feel that they have little to no influence on outcomes. 

There are times of course when life simply hands you a bunch of lemons and no matter how positive your thoughts and actions are there is simply no sugar to be found to remedy the situation. The idea of being an active co-creator even under the sourest of times can give us the courage it takes to continue to live your life with curiosity and vigor. You have done the best you could do with the information you had and it's best to move on with a new vision; lemons and all.  Just as bitters in the herbal world are healing, bitter in life can be transformational for us emotionally.  

Disappointments in your results as co-creator of your life will naturally happen. Our plans and goals have a way of changing in mid air. As you mold the clay of your next venture you may start out thinking that you are sculpting a magical unicorn and instead end up with a tea pot; however at least your tea pot is functional.  In other words, although the tea pot isn't exactly what you set out to create, it still serves a purpose and it's presence in your life is there because of your own efforts.  

Positive affirmations and positive imagery are affective tools to help hone in on your own power of positive planning in an effort to bring about shifts toward goal fulfillment.  There are many contemplative co-creating exercises that can be utilized in helping someone to get clarity about what they long for. Clarity is important to assess where you are in your life path and where you would like to be.
Working with the concept of acting as a co-creator brings a personal vision closer to manifestation. Some suggestions besides affirmations and visualizations are creating collages, or dream boards, music and poetry.  Other creative endeavors such as patch work quilting, painting, etc. can be done with the intention of focusing on what you want to create in your life; be it love, health, success. Repeating a mantra throughout the day or prayerful visualization are other ways of tuning into what you want and allowing for gradual manifestation. Gratitude for what is going well in your life is a good place to start in order to generate the mind frame of acceptance and an open heart for the future.  

For personalized, therapeutic attention on enhancing your co-creating strengths call Tanya Kuschnitzky MA.Ed., LPC for an appointment at 404-702-8474.

Monday, September 1, 2014

School Stress

School is back in session and along with it comes the stress! Between packing lunches, transporting kids back and forth from extra curricular activities and keeping up with their homework, let alone staying on top of your own responsibilities, stress is in the air.  On a positive note, you will get use to the routine once more (just in time for Winter Break!)
Parents are often surprised to hear from their children that they are stressed out.  Kids experience stress just like adults.  Whether young or old, stress is a part of our lives.  Kids have social stress and performance stress, family stress and personal stress.  In some ways their stress can be more profound because of the lack of control and influence they have in their lives.  They don't have as many choices as adults do.  Their choices are limited to what the adults in their lives dole out to them. 

With all the stress that parents have in their daily lives, they may fail to show compassion for their children when they show signs of stress.  "What do they have to be stressed about?" they wonder, "they have it easy compared to adults".  This perspective is often quite demoralizing for kids who are feeling a true response based on their own experience.  Adults have lived on this planet for many years and have built up personal resources and developed useful coping skills. Kids have only a limited range of life experiences from which to pull. It's nearly impossible for them to put themselves in their parents shoes in order to compare how others experience stress.  They only know what it's like being in school and facing the demands that go along with that.  This is their reality. 

Studies show that when parents actively support their children in building coping skills and practice a communication technique called active listening, kids have a greater chance of being successful in overcoming their obstacles. Parents can begin by showing understanding and compassion for their children; even reflecting and sharing stories about their school years.  It is important for kids to feel that they are not alone in what they feel.  Teaching kids guided meditation or breathing and mindfulness techniques are extremely effective. CD's for kids meditation and guided imagery are readily available on you tube and Amazon, and possibly your local library.

Providing healthy meals for your kids loaded with good protein as often as time will allow is imperative.  Without adequate nutrition our bodies and brains can easily spiral downwards with the slightest shove from stress.  Incorporating a B Complex Supplement has been shown to aid our nervous system in retaliating against the effects of stress. 

Our teens need as much sleep as our toddlers, even though they may resist this! Sleep is necessary in order to recover and reboot from the days events.

Encourage your child to get at least 20 min. of physical exercise a day.  It's a wonderful way to work out the cortisol (stress hormone) from the body. 

If you are familiar with these basics and have these elements in place, here are a few other ideas to incorporate.  I had a physician who told me she believed in the powers of fresh air and sunshine to aid in the healing process; you don't hear that too often anymore, but I think she was very wise in spreading this advise.  Allow kids the opportunity to connect to nature by being outside.  Observing the trees, the bugs, the birds, etc. reminds us that we are a part of something greater. The concept of feeling a part of a greater whole is comforting.  There is a constancy and peacefulness in nature that waits for us to tune into it and then shares it's essence with us.
Sometimes your children may need to simply talk out their feelings.  In times like these it's important to listen attentively and not jump into advise giving.  Problem solve with their help, ask for their input on how they see themselves improving on an issue. The more influence they perceive themselves having on their lives, the more effective they feel and the more they will be able to handle stress in present and in the future!

For more information or to make an appointment email tanya@newlevelcounseling.com