Sobriety Matters: 12 Tips for Celebrating Sobriety This Holiday Season

The best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones is to take your sobriety seriously this holiday season.

Over many years I’ve learned, both personally and professionally, that material objects — whatever fancy things you might think another person wants, aren’t in any way as important as you managing, protecting and caring about your sobriety. By doing so, you prove to them that it is your number one priority.

There is no other time than than the holiday season which is more important or more challenging to do so.

With that in mind, I’m offering proven tips for you to stay focused on being your best sober self.

Over the next 12 days of Christmas, I will expand on one tip each day with an explanation of its importance and how you can put it into practice.

Remember: You alone decide the value of a life free of addiction.

Here is some help along the way.


Tips for making your Sobriety Matter:

  1. Stay in the middle of your herd.
  2. Stay off the slippery slopes.
  3. Mix your own drinks.
  4. Remember that “no“ is a complete sentence.
  5. Never barter with your sobriety.
  6. Deliberately do something good for someone else each day.
  7. Take life ‘one minute at a time’ if necessary.
  8. Recognize and avoid people pleasing.
  9. Stay forward focused.
  10. Be your own best friend.
  11. Be grateful for what you have.
  12. Say a prayer for peace, for yourself and for the world.

 

To receive more on the 12 tips directly in your inbox, sign up to our newsletter by entering your email and preferences on www.goodlifetherapy.ca . You can also like & follow our Facebook Page @goodlifetherapy.ca here for the 12 daily tips.

Happy Holidays!

Retreat and Refocus

Focusing on Your Aim of Life

East = Inward

A few times a year, I exit from my busy life running a therapy centre to go on meditation retreat. I’m here now studying under Kriyayoga Master, Yogi Satyam and enjoying the opportunity to look deeper within myself. The theme important to me is staying focused on my aim of life. In eastern psychology, there is a fundamental belief that we are born with innate wisdom, knowledge and all power. It is considered our true nature but it gets obscured through social conditioning. We are taught from birth to look outward to know our self and to figure out our purpose in life.

In Eastern practices, on the other hand, the focus of our attention is inward. We concentrate inside with the aim to feel the presence of the Divine energy that flows through all life. This Omnipresent Spirit is all knowing (intuition) and provides a sense of peace, all kinds of power, and bliss (ever new joy). Kriyayoga meditation is the highest form of practice to reach this aim.

West = Outward

 

So many of us in the west are overwhelmed by the constant struggles and seeming lack of meaning in life. What is the purpose of my life? What exactly am I supposed to accomplish here? If money can’t buy happiness, then what can? Is there something in the unseen realms that can help us manage the limitations of physical existence?

To cope, many of us get lost in the throes of addiction or compulsive activities, like work or exercise. Or some of us develop an unhealthy dependency on others to confirm a sense of worthiness, or to ward off loneliness. It is easy to criticize those who do so, yet it is the cultural conditioning that is at fault; that sets us all up for striving externally for a sense of contentment within.

East Meets West

In the west we value scientific discovery and “proof”. Skeptics ask, “How do we prove that this Divine wisdom underlies all of creation?” But there is proof and those who want it must be willing to do the experiment of self-realization. This experiment is the inward journey and the laboratory is your own self. And like any scientific enquiry, “If you do the experiment (of prayer & meditation), you will not be able to deny the experience”.

There is a lot of scientific data on the effects of meditation, especially for serious long-term meditators. But the benefits can be felt immediately with even a little regular practice. It leads to a more positive overall outlook on life; more peace and calm and less loneliness.

What gives life purpose? To sum up: it is being of service. It is a feeling that what you do matters in some small way and that you matter. In other words, the “spirit” moves us in our lives to stay active in meaningful ways. Often people believe service work means doing international charity work, but that’s not necessary. Being of service can be as simple as caring lovingly and responsibly for the plants, animals and people in your life.

The World is One Home 

Last night’s lecture was titled “The world is one home”.  We were asked to open our minds and be flexible enough to feel at home no matter where we are and no matter who we are with. Is it possible to let go just a little of our attachment to the concept and comfort of “mine”?

For those who are willing to take this journey, the rewards are immense. Meditation isn’t about a short period of time sitting on a cushion. Nor is faith just a blind belief in something unseen that we have no connection to. Instead, we must begin to live our Faith –  that guides us to align with our highest Self. Faith is belief in the Eternal Substance that was present before, is present now and will be in the future. In Kriyayoga meditation, we practice connecting with this Truth, resulting in greater health, ever new peace & joy and a sense of purpose in life.

Start Your Experiment in the Aim for Peace

 

These wonderful qualities, which are the antidote to our anxiety, depression and sense of overwhelm with life cannot be given to us by anything external. They cannot be given to you by another person, no matter how much they love you. No amount of money, property or prestige can provide it either.

These qualities can only come from within – from your ongoing commitment to cultivate a deep connection with the Source of all that is peace, power and knowledge.

Each of our paths is unique. You must find what works for you. Have you found your practice to more inner peace? If not, I hope you will consider the search worthwhile. I hope also that you will spend time in the next while in the experiment, so that you don’t miss the experience.

Wishing you peace & happiness,
 
Sue

2 Key Tactics to Keep Couples Motivated 

Are you afraid of hard work?

Not your own hard work. Your clients’.

Did you know the only way partners can expect meaningful change in their relationship is if they commit to ongoing strenuous effort?

If not, you are not alone. As crazy as it sounds, so many therapists end up working harder than their clients do.

If you want tips for keeping couples motivated, read on…as what I’m about to share will create a lot of relief for you and help you get better results.

In my last blog to you, Get Couples Therapy on Track and Moving: What most Therapists Don’t Know”, I quoted Dr. Peter Pearson. With his wealth of experience working with couples over the last 30 years, he has fine-tuned his approach and is a true Master in the field of couples therapy. He is someone I continue to learn so much from.

I emphasized the two most important messages to hit home with couples is to: a) help them learn to calm their reptilian brain (which is triggered by their partner and reacts badly; and b) to stay ‘forward focused’ in their work with you.

Those two things are hard enough to accomplish. But here’s the kicker. If clients do not know their “why”, then as Dr. Pete says, “they will inevitably lose their way”.  So you have to start here.

First Things First

The fact is this: your attempts to get couples to follow through on your interventions will fall flat, if you haven’t first established their motivation to do the hard work of change.

We’ve all been there – wanting their lives to be better more than they seem to.  The therapy stalls, you have premature dropouts, you start to feel burned out and dread sessions with them or worst of all, angry escalations targeted at you for not changing them fast enough.

Like physicians presented with symptoms, they often want the magic pill,  putting the burden of responsibility for relief square on your shoulders. That’s a recipe for disaster, if partners are ever going to move from a place of dependency and despondency to one of authority and action.  

When you insist on pushing couples to connect to, articulate and commit to their personal process of change, your authority as an effective leader will be established. You will have created the structure necessary to keep them motivated and working.

Two Key Strategies to Shift the Workload

1. Ask each partner to think deeply about their purpose for coming to see you. You are not asking for a pat answer, but a deeply meaningful one. “I want to learn how to become a man my wife can trust and count on,” verses, “To get her off my back.”  Or, “I want to learn how to treat him with respect and be more loving,” rather than, “Find a way to get him to help more with the chores.”

2. Next, ask each partner to describe what it will require of them to bring that change about.  Again, you are not settling for a superficial response about some insignificant action they can take, like “I’ll come home on time for dinner each night”. That probably won’t cut it. It might sound more like, “I need to figure out why I lie to him and cause him so much pain. It will mean me healing the damage of my past.”

Once you have clearly established each partners purpose or deep desire and what exactly they are working on as their growth edge, then ask them to describe the benefits that will result – for themselves and their partner.

Spend time here.  Get them to list as many as they can and add a few yourself that they may have forgotten. This is where the Developmental Model incorporates neuroscience findings. This is the way you anchor it in memory and help them to create new neural pathways.

Have them imagine themselves already there. How do they see themselves reacting, how does it feel, what happens for their partner when they act from their highest self? Have them ascribe a word or phrase to this state and write this down on an index card. Ask that they can carry it with them as a reminder of how they aspire to be when they are triggered by their partner.

Forward Focused

Let them know you will support them to maintain this goal by stepping in each and every time they lose sight of or connection to their personal goal.

You will offer them developmental assists and teach them the necessary skills to stay committed to their ‘why’ – so they won’t lose their way. 

You are modelling the futility of rehashing the past and instead replacing it with the personal gift of showing up as their best self.

By following this formula, you will accomplish what many couples therapist fail to do – place the onus of hard work and perseverance squarely where it needs to be – on those that need to change.

 

All the best,

Stay focused on Self Love this Valentine’s Day!

Stay focused on Self Love this Valentine’s Day.

That way, if you don’t have a significant other, you can still enjoy the day because of  the love you show to yourself. If someone else shows you love – that’s a bonus.

Here are a few tips to help you get started or keep going.

Connect – Staying connected with those we love is good for our health because our nervous systems are wired that way. We thrive when we know we are not alone!

Appreciate – When was the last time you noticed something you did well or that you liked about you? Indulge in positive self-talk. Be grateful for all you have, your strengths and joys! Appreciate and be kind to yourself and those around you.

Have Fun! – Prioritizing fun does wonders for our happiness and health. We mean it! Time to reschedule.

Meditate – Carve out at least 30 minutes to relax. Choose something that works for you: reading a book, doing a meditation, going for a walk, taking a bath or a nap. There are no rules!

Build Confidence – Believe in your power and abilities! Try something today, big or small, that makes you feel accomplished! It could be a brand new haircut, making a fancy meal, dressing up to look your best, or doing anything creative.

Date! – Plan and attend an amazing date – with yourself or a significant other. Take yourself out to a nice restaurant, go look at art in one of the many great art galleries in town, go for a walk by the beach. It doesn’t have to cost money to “treat” yourself. Putting the icing on the cake of Self Love today.

Here’s wishing you a very happy and healthy Valentine’s Day!

What Most Therapists Don’t Know

Get Couples Therapy on Track and Moving:  What most Therapists Don’t Know

I love working with high distressed couples because it challenges me as a therapist to grow and learn.  I’m not saying it’s easy – it’s anything but.  A lot of therapists flat out refuse to do it. But, the rewards are immense when you know where to put your focus – to be a good leader while keeping couples focused on their developmental growth edges.

I recently had the wonderful privilege of spending time with my mentors, Dr.’s Ellyn Bader & Pete Pearson.  In one of our clinical training sessions, Dr. Pete helped us understand why so many therapists like me and you, get stalled with couples who are entrenched in patterns of conflict avoidance or hostile angry clashes.

Trying to solve their problems is quite simply, putting the cart before the horse. It will never end in real and permanent change in their attachment system, nor their level of differentiation. Instead, there are two important shifts you must make to increase your effectiveness.

1. Teach them about the ‘primitive brain’ and how important it is for them to take responsibility to regulate it under stress.

Neuroscience is rapidly inserting itself into the field of psychotherapy. We now know that the fight/flight/freeze instinct hijacks relationships. It interprets a partner’s behavior as a threat to survival, demanding self-protection rather than openness and connection.

We all bring our baggage to our marriages.  We might not open the bags right away, but eventually, we will begin to repeat, reenact and re-traumatize with seemingly no awareness of why. The sad reality is that couples will let this go on for years, seeking therapy only after a well-entrenched destructive pattern is leading them to the brink of divorce.

Helping each partner understand their “triggers” is a first step. By learning to calm the distress within themselves, they can begin to untangle their past “memory” of threat from their current reality.  They can free up energy in the thinking, decision-making parts of their brain, to help them interrupt negative knee-jerk responses.

2. Show them how to keep their eyes and their behavior forward focused.

Creating safety in a relationship allows each partner to risk being vulnerable.  Safety comes when each person is accountable for how they aspire to be, especially under stress.  This takes ongoing effort, something that many therapists fail to impart to couples. If you feel at times that you are working harder than your couples, then that’s a red flag that you have gotten off track.

Avoid the retelling of the horrible ways they treat one another. That wastes valuable time looking backwards, that you could spend having them rehearse being a better version of themselves.

The forward focus is about getting each person to define and commit to their “ideal self” as a partner. Having them practice being that way in your office allows them to transfer this ability to stressful situations that arise in their lives.

With your consistent help, partners will integrate these two skills, making your job easier and more enjoyable. More importantly, couples experience warmth, love and connection with one another, which is what they are longing for.

 

All the best,

P.S. If you would like to learn more about how to apply these and other developmental approaches to couples therapy, consider joining my Bader-Pearson Developmental Model of Couples Therapy Level 1 training class beginning January 29, 2018. I would love to meet and work with you. To find out more, click here.