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Everyday Therapy

Part 3: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

A Series of Articles: 3 of 6 – How to Increase Healthy Communication

Have you ever experienced someone in life that you connect with and enjoy talking with immensely- on all levels of communication? There are feelings of mutual understanding, it feels natural, safe, supportive, and you find that you’re able to share more and more facets of your being with another human.  It’s a wonderful experience- one of value. Someone that knows the deeper meaning to your life events and experiences, that’s there for you, that you’re there for, makes you laugh, and you’re able to give to genuinely.

The Desire to Connect

Communication stimulates and engages on a cognitive level. It’s important to consider that the desire to connect as a human is natural. Consider how many people you meet within a week, a month, and a year.  How often do you connect in a deep and meaningful level? Many times, clients indicate the level of difficulty in communicating with others and developing deep and meaningful relationships.  An individual’s innate desire to connect taps into one’s internal strength reserves to  work through fears and evoke increases in vulnerability with the goals of moving forward towards healthier communication; which brings the associated benefits of developing satisfying long-term relationships.

Appreciation and Value

In addition, it’s vital to appreciate the individuals you’ve developed strong communication with. Ask the difficult question- do you appreciate and value the relationship(s) you currently have? To assist with your decision, reflect on how each individual relationship has shifted and developed over time.  Consider what expectations you have of the relationship and whether you’re able to give back in similar manners.

Additionally, ask- are you feeling consistently frustrated? This is a difficult environment to engage in. Consider whether or not you are stuck in a cycle of unrealistic expectations. If so, honest reflection in regards to how realistic it is for the relationship to change over time and/or whether or not the relationship will be a beneficial experience long-term is vital.  At times, there is internal work an individual will benefit from in a therapeutic relationship to assist with developing realistic expectations and building awareness of the complexity and differences.

When Life Becomes Significantly Difficult- and it will

Life, at times, becomes stressful, difficult, and perplexing. Healthy communication doesn’t necessarily mean that there is void of conflict or disagreement; especially during stress, grieving, and difficult times.  Consider how individuals engage during the good times and during more difficult times.  This is where having developed a sense of value and appreciation for having strong communicative relationships is beneficial.  During difficult times, many relationships suffer and eventually break down or cease completely.  Most times, with pain, confusion, and many unanswered questions. The more time that passes without directly addressing the issues that break down the relationship, the more difficult it is to return to a sense of balance and satisfaction.  However, there are ways to minimize the damage and pain. With healthy communication, individuals will have a higher probability of increasing the strength and connection through difficult times, which develops a stronger connection, reinforces trust, and commitment.

Strong Connections

At times, a person engages in a relationship built over years with a strong connection. The relationship has deeper meaning, higher investment, and is much more difficult to cease. Moreover, if the relationship is a healthy one, it’s critical to understand the gift of this type of connection throughout life. Consider romantic relationships, family members, friends, professional connections, and/or connections on social media.  It’s important to reflect on how comprehensive and significant this list is. Ask yourself- how many individuals do you feel intimately connected with? Even with the numerous individuals you engage with, there is only a segment that encompasses what individuals innately desire- mutually healthy, strong, consistent, intimate, and beneficial relationships where growth, change, vulnerability, love, and communication are supported and desirable for each person.

Note: Article: 3 of 6 discussed the benefits of increasing healthy communication. Article: 4 of 6 will discuss ways to increase healthy communication as part of developing and reinforcing long-term relationships. Furthermore, Article 4 of 6 focuses on the messages you received in life, how others perceive your communication, proactive listening, humor, trust and safety, compromise, and the risks of being open. The two articles in the series partner with one another to encompass a wider range of elements regarding communication.

In conclusion, communication is vital to each individual experiencing the relationship and to the relationship as a whole. Communication is complex, it involves investment and work to develop a level of vulnerability through tapping into strengths and reducing fears.  Developing quality relationships with healthy communication patterns is vital to mental health, connection, enjoyment, and well-being. Communication increases the capacity for relationships to be mutually satisfying and full of support, caring, positive interactions, and veering well during difficult times. COMING SOON: Article 4 of 6 in the series.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi

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Peace, Love & Anxiety

Looking Up

by Christy Gualtieri

A few months ago, my cousin from New York City came to visit with his four kids in tow, the oldest of whom was sixteen. We got to talking about cell phones and how old the kids were when they first got them, a topic that I listened to with interest, since although my kids are relatively young, it’s a conversation I’ll end up having sooner rather than later. The sixteen year old does everything on his phone. Calls and texts, obviously. Social media apps, getting his news. But also, schoolwork. Writing essays.

“Writing essays?” I said incredulously, like a proper Old Person.

“Yeah,” he shrugged. “I type them on my phone and then email it to myself to print out.”

I sat there relatively agog, half-wondering if he was a warlock of some kind. “But…how do your thumbs still work?” I checked his hands fully expecting to see inhumanly large thumbs with huge muscles bulging out, but they looked like normal teenage hands to me.  “Haven’t they fallen off?” I was joking, but still…I was pretty taken aback.

It’s such a funny thing, living in a time when things are changing so rapidly, where new technologies are cropping up every day. I imagine it’s like someone who just got electricity in their home for the first time, and what the Old People in their times would say. “But…you just turn on…lights? In your home? What do you do with all the candles?”  Or people who just got radios. “But…how do you hear someone’s voice in your house…without them being there?”

But back to the phones. Being of a certain age, I wouldn’t say that I’m the kind of person who is attached to my cell phone all the time, but I do check it pretty frequently. I can’t imagine being a kid and feeling like a limb was missing if it was taken away, or what someone’s brainwaves look like after only knowing the reality of being able to access information in the palm of your hand.

The other day, I was standing on the corner waiting for my son’s school bus. I was alone and it was a chilly day, but a bright one, and the sky really was lovely: a robin’s-egg blue color with this smattering of white clouds all across it. I looked up and watched the cloud for a minute, and then saw something else, and kept watching. I was transfixed. No one had been driving by at the time, but I can guess what they’d have been thinking if they did: what is she looking at? And maybe they’d stop too, crane their neck up against their car window, or peer upward past their sun visors that hung down, trying to see why in the world one solitary woman was doing just standing there on the corner, looking up at the sky.

There was this bird, that’s all. A huge bird, the kind that was so big so way up high that you knew it would be absolutely monstrous if it was closer to you. We get plenty of birds in our neighborhood; cardinals and blue-jays, crows (my favorite), and sometimes little yellow ones – canaries, maybe – but this was no bird like that. I wondered how high up it was, and remembered that hawks can spot a little mouse for dinner from something like a mile up in the air, and I wondered if that’s how high this bird was. After a minute it kept flying out of sight, and I thought about how silly I must have looked, neck crooked, eyes straight up, with a hand to shield the strong light of the sun.

Why is it strange to see someone looking up…and why is not strange to see someone looking down? Because that’s what we do, most times, right? I know I do. Looking down gets you knowledge of things that are happening not very close to you…but looking up keeps you focused on the world you’re in right now.

Chances are, you’re like me, and could do with some more looking up. Of course, we all need distractions, especially if you’re not very comfortable with the world you’re currently in right now, but we need balance, too, and the world needs you in it – to participate, to acknowledge, to understand that although it’s a big, wide world, it’s all the more special because of what you contribute to it.

So if you get a chance (and you should make one), take a minute to look up. Observe what the sky looks like, and the clouds, if there are any. Take a deep breath, and then another one. Then go back to whatever else you were doing, and try to take that time again tomorrow, with some extra time added on…and see what you see! You may be surprised!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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Existential GPS

Shadows in the Attic

by Don Laird, NCC, LPC, DCC

Fear is one of the most potent human emotions. Primitive yet effective, it alerted us (and still does) to the presence of danger and was essential in keeping our species on the planet. Our emotional evolution with all its intellectual trappings of modern sophistication has done little to smother the reach and intensity of fear. Reduce it all we want, try to explain it away, yet we still feel compelled to whistle while passing by the dark, cerebral cemetery of unknowns. From the shadowy cavities of our minds fear creeps in two ways – emotional and biochemical. The emotional response is highly individualized, while the biochemical response is universal.

The emotional response to fear is very personalized. Fear does involve some of the same chemical responses in our brains that positive emotions like happiness do, so feeling fear under certain circumstances can be seen as enjoyable, like watching scary movies or going to a “haunted” attraction. Those who get physical pleasure from the release of adrenaline into the body by thriving on extreme sports and other fear-inducing situations would be another example of the complexity to understanding how fear works. While there are others who have a negative reaction to fear, and they avoid fear-inducing situations at all costs. Depending on the individual and the situation, fear may be perceived as either a positive or negative experience.

Fear is a natural survival mechanism. It’s been with us since , well, for as long as we have had the ability to survive as a species. When faced with a perceived threat, our bodies respond in highly specific ways. Reactions to fear may include increased heart rate and higher that usual adrenaline levels that make us extremely alert and “on guard.” This physical response is also known as a “fight or flight” response, in which your body prepares itself to either enter combat or run away.  Adrenaline as well as the stress hormone cortisol begins pumping through your body at a very high rate. This occurs so that you can react quickly to danger or a perceived threat. If you are someone who is an excessive worrier or you experience sustained fear because of your health, death of a loved one, divorce, etc., then the “fight or flight” reaction releases an overwhelming amount of cortisol into your brain, resulting in sustained worry and potentially clinical anxiety. Fear can, in fact, alter your brain’s wiring, as well as your impulse control.  There are, however, ways to counter this physical reaction. Drinking lots of cold water helps flush the adrenaline and cortisol from your system. Deep breathing exercises are another way to help slow down this process, and of course physical activity and exercise are crucial to decreasing these chemicals in your body to a much more manageable and comfortable level.

Fear is incredibly complex. Some fears could be the result of frightening experiences or even trauma, while others may actually represent a fear of something else a little less obvious, such as loss of control or meaning in life or anxiety over death and dying. Fear in and of itself is not rational. It operates at the opposite end of that spectrum and can often run up against logic or “common sense,” which in turn may cause feelings of guilt or elevated levels of anxiety.

Repeated exposure to similar situations leads to familiarity. For example: find the light switch in the dark room and all is seemingly well. Exposure reduces both the emotional fear response and the resulting biochemical reaction. Conversely, this leads adrenaline junkies to seek out the extreme – ever new and bigger thrills. Exposure forms the basis of many phobia treatments, which depend on slowly minimizing the fear response by making it feel familiar and eventually extinguishing it altogether.

However, if you are faced with a serious threat or a dangerous situation, then fear is appropriate.  It’s knowing how to manage your fear, so that it doesn’t paralyze you from living your life and from participating or engaging with others in a meaningful fashion.

The solution is to understand your situation and your fears. Therapy or counseling from a licensed professional can help if your fears become too large for you to manage on your own.

To be continued… Part 4 of a 5-week series on eTalkTherapy’s psychology of fear.

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Peace, Love & Anxiety

Scary Air

by Christy Gualtieri

You’ve most likely heard the saying, “Do one thing that scares you,” a popular – and somewhat useful – nudge designed to move you out of your comfort zone. Doing things that scare you, or even things that make you uncomfortable help give you confidence, trust in your own abilities, and spur you onward into even greater things.

I know all these to be true, my friends, because just the other day I also did something that scared me: I put air in my car tires.

Putting air in your car tires seems to be the kind of thing that 99% of car owners would probably not bat an eye at, probably because it’s one of the most simple ways to take care of your car.  But while I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, there’s a surprising (at least to me) number of “simple” things that I struggle to do. Jello, for example. I can’t make jello.  I’ve burned spaghetti (which you are supposed to boil).  I have been that person at the gas pump who has sprayed gasoline all over her pants during a six-hour drive across the state.  (In my defense, I learned how to drive in New Jersey, where it is illegal to pump your own gas, so I didn’t learn how to until I was solidly ten years behind every other American driver my age not from New Jersey.) So you’ll understand why I was nervous about pumping air into my tires.  It just seemed hard.  There’s the little cap you have to screw off, and what if I lost it? And what if I put too much air in, causing the tire to explode right in my face? What if I couldn’t do it, and everyone would see what a failure I was?

But it’s the autumn, the time of year when the cooler weather necessitates a trip to put air in my tires. And while I am very lucky to be married to an extremely capable man who is more than willing to do things like this for me, I was determined this year to learn the skill for myself. So I drove up to the air pump at the local station, read the instructions, and got to work. I put in the amount of air pressure I wanted, hooked up the pump to my tire (after screwing off the little cap), and it worked! The machine beeped when it was full, and I replaced the cap and moved on to the next tire. No tires exploded in my face, and when I was finished, I replaced the air pump hose back to the machine with total satisfaction.

I was downright ecstatic…until I found out it didn’t work. When I got back in my car to drive away, my tire pressure numbers hadn’t inflated. I was so annoyed! What did I do wrong? What was wrong with me? Would I ever learn to fill my own tires? I drove the short distance home, hoping the numbers would readjust, but they stayed put. I asked my husband what it could be and he told me that he’d show me a few days later when we went out for church, but I wanted to figure it out for myself, today.

And so I did. A couple of hours later, I returned to the same gas station and the man there said the air pump was broken; they’d just hadn’t had a chance to put up a sign.  So off I went to another station down the street with an air pump, absolutely determined to get this right. I put in the pressure numbers, hooked up the pump, and…success! I managed to fully and properly inflate all four car tires by myself. I drove away just as pumped as my tires!

I fully understand how ridiculous this all sounds, especially from a grown woman, but it really was something that scared me and it was something I was able to gain a lot of confidence from. I learned that I was able to persevere and figure out what I wanted and needed to do, and I did it. It’s probably the smallest example in the world, but those are the best kind, because everyone can do them. Even you!

So choose something that scares you today – or at least makes you a little nervous. It can be anything: a hard conversation with a friend, base jumping off the Grand Canyon, whatever. Even putting air in your car tires. But give it a try. Because even if you don’t succeed at it, like I didn’t the first time I tried, you’ll know you got that far, you’re still alive, and you can always try again.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

 

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Everyday Therapy

Part 2: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

A Series of Articles: 2 of 6 –  How Respect & Appreciation Increase Rewarding Relationships.  

This is the second in a series of 6 articles relating to developing quality relationships.  Developing quality relationships is complex, layered, and many times, grappled with throughout life.  Respect and Appreciation are the focus of today’s article.

Respect is an important factor in each relationship throughout life. First, consider the importance of respect for yourself.  A strong presence of respect centered internally assists with understanding and valuing yourself and others; and dually, with developing quality relationships.  At times, an individual may grapple with respecting one’s self; if this occurs, it’s important to invest time and the work associated with learning ways to develop a high level of respect for one’s self. In addition, this process assists with developing capacities to give respect in each relationship and in a variety of environments.

At times, it is important to consider the differences and many similarities in regards to how each individual gives and receives affirmations of respect and appreciation.  For example, showing appreciation for a partner fixing the vehicle and/or making dinner on a busy evening is an important aspect of daily life.  Therefore, giving your loved one positive verbal affirmations assists in showing respect and appreciation; for others, physical engagement, a hug for example, or an act of encouragement supports this intention.  In each relationship, it’s important to take inventory of your thoughts, feelings, reactions, behaviors, and words; and to ask yourself where the motivation for your words and behaviors are coming from.

Consider the following:

  1. Seek out relationships with a give-give ratio: Having respect for one’s self assists in setting healthy boundaries and seeking out healthy and enjoyable relationships. Consider if you feel supported by and support the other individual. The deeper meaning here is that each person supports the other’s gifts and differences- each person has a different set of gifts in life. Respect and appreciation assist in supporting, nurturing, and balancing values, goals, and the complexities of change throughout; even positive change has the propensity to be difficult without each.
  2. The flexibility to grow as a human-being, with mutual trust, support, respect, and appreciation throughout life’s natural changes: Change is inevitable and extremely difficult for some. For many, this brings an uncomfortable awareness and vulnerability. During times when a person has difficulty with feelings of vulnerability and/or experiencing fear and the unknown, engaging in disrespectful behaviors erode the relationship.  At times, the trust and safety factors an individual desires to feel are diminished over time; which destroys the relationship. Many times, each person is left confused as to what happened. Engaging in a consistent respectful dialogue and behaviors, while showing appreciation during change and stressful times, increases feelings of trust, safety, and love, while strengthening the relationship long-term.
  3. Disappointment, Fear, & Frustration: In a relationship it’s important to refrain from engaging in critical, blameful, and harming behaviors where the probability of pain and isolation is evident. The mentioned behaviors destroy individuals and the relationship as a whole. Each person may experience loneliness, and engage in the relationship while tolerating stress and frustration. There are times however, where difficult transitions may assist in grappling with deeper issues, which has potential to increase awareness, life satisfaction, and create new opportunities moving forward.
  4. Implement a balance of strength: At times, it’s vital to express feelings and emotions even when it’s uncomfortable or difficult. In other situations, a level of graciousness and acceptance is inherently beneficial to the self, the person being engaging with, and to the relationship as a whole. With this, it’s important to ask the difficult question of what is driving the decision to share or avoid sharing. The motivation in itself has the potential to change the outcome of whether to share and in what manners.
  5. Respect and appreciation ‘look’ different for each individual and has shifts throughout the lifespan. Reflect on each relationship; if you’re in a relationship where respect and appreciation are lacking, it’s important to address the issues and move forward from there. Many times, this involves adjustments in how a person approaches her/himself, how each individual approaches the other person, and by learning healthier ways to communicate. Therapy is beneficial to assist with working through current and/or old and outdated behaviors that are void of benefit and hindering to growth and the development towards giving and receiving respect and appreciation.

In conclusion, developing respect and appreciation are part of a complex process of behaviors that work towards increasing the quality of intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships, mutual understanding, support (including during difficult times), and enjoyment.  When coupled with communication, a relationship has the capacity to be mutually satisfying and full of support, caring, and positive interactions. COMING SOON: article 3 of 6 in the series: How to Increase Healthy Communication

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi