By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
As many of you know, my private practice is a relatively new professional development for me and it has certainly been an amazing, inspiring whirlwind. With any new beginning, even ones that we recognize as necessary and positive in our lives, all kinds of emotions are stirred up. For me, putting myself as a therapist “out there” has been a challenge and stirs up a lot of my fears and vulnerabilities.
This post is inspired by my recent relocation of my private practice office as well as the exciting, tumultuous, intimidating, inspiring, and scary time of starting a new endeavor. I tend to really appreciate language and enjoy reading and using quotes to help me reframe my mindset so I have put together a list of my favorites to share.
Here are my Top Quotes for Times of Transition, Change, and Struggle:
Thanks for reading as always! If you want to add to my list of quotes, please feel free to share in the comments!
Have questions about our practice? Please contact us regarding any issues around child, teen psychotherapy services, adult or family therapist in San Diego by Thrive Therapy Studio.
By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
This post is inspired by recently reading the book, “Leadership and Self-Deception” by the Arbinger Institute as well as my thoughts related to healthy relationship building due to all of the Valentine’s Day related activities. At first look, this book did not really strike me as relating too much to relationships but as I started reading, I realized just how wrong my perception of the book was! I continue to be extremely impressed with the concepts they covered and their applicability to all kinds of relationships, in and out of the workplace.
One of the most important topics that this book covered is the importance of seeing other people as people. When we objectify others, we create more opportunity to blame, dramatically reduce compassion, and reduce our ability to take accountability for our role in situations. I believe that one of the reasons why many of us fall into this trap is due to our feelings of shame. Shame fundamentally prevents authentic connection and accountability. It is so painful to experience that most people avoid acknowledging that we are feeling shame and then react in ways that are not productive or helpful (blaming, shutting down, giving in, etc). If you are interested in learning more about shame, Brene Brown’s books and videos are phenomenal!
A commonly addressed issue in therapy is helping people see others’ perspectives, particularly while having challenges within a relationship. For example, you might find yourself in an argument with either your significant other, partner, child, or close friend where you find yourself only seeing your side of the situation and completely blaming the other person for the entire issue. Then you might only notice details about the situation that confirm what you think/believe about the other person. This exact scenario is very common and brought up frequently in therapy. Interestingly, one of the fears many people have when their loved one begins therapy is that the therapist will only address and validate the clients’ side of things, rather than helping to bring about more accountability and addressing what changes they can make to improve their relationship. Many of the therapists that I know, including myself, would never practice in that way as it simply is not beneficial to the client!
As unbiased observers in someone’s life, our role is typically not to be simply that person’s cheerleader (though sometimes we do that too!), but to be a catalyst of change in their lives to help them reach their goals and resolve their past hurts. I see a big part of my role in assisting people in identifying their experience of shame and resolving its’ negative impact in their lives. Through this exploration, I encourage the clients with whom I work to go deeper into their understanding of themselves and how they contribute to the problems at hand. I also work with them on building empathy and compassion for their partners, and themselves, to help reduce blame, manage shame, and increase their own accountability. Relationships often change dramatically even if just one partner takes this approach.
From a psychological perspective, I was impressed with the ability of this book to explain in a simple manner complicated and difficult to accept concepts. These concepts are difficult to accept for one main reason. It is just so much easier to continue viewing others as objects and blame them for the situations that go awry in our lives. I totally understand that feeling and experience it myself at times. It can be challenging to recognize our own responsibility making changes. Again, this challenge is usually rooted in our shame in that when we allow ourselves to see the mistakes we are making, we often spiral out of control in our thinking in that one mistake can mean everything is a mistake and we are “all bad.”
Through therapy and self-compassion, we can learn how to mitigate these thoughts and feelings to be able to accept our flaws, be vulnerable, all while exhibiting compassion for ourselves and others. This is when our lives change, including our relationships! Just imagine, being able to get enough distance from our problems and mistakes that we can see them more clearly and less catastrophically. Instead of thinking, “I must be a terrible person, etc” you will find yourself thinking, “I wish I had handled that situation differently, I definitely messed up but I can work on that so that in the future I do better for myself and those around me.” Thinking in this way can be quite liberating!
Reading this book just might help you work towards this goals and it is quickly becoming a new favorite of mine to recommend for anyone struggling with interpersonal relationships. If you end up checking it out or if you’ve read it in the past, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it as well! You can find the book on Amazon here.
Thanks for reading!
Have a question about our practice? Please contact us regarding any issues around our team of adult, child and teen counselors or family therapy in San Diego by Thrive Therapy Studio.
Change your thoughts, change your life.
By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
Language is a powerful force in our lives, more powerful than many of us give it credit for. I remember when I first recognized this, while I was living in France after college. Learning another language is an amazing and enriching experience particularly when you have the ability to be immersed in the culture where they speak the language. I lived in France for one year as an au pair, which means that I was a live-in nanny for a French family. This was one of the most powerful and transformative years of my life and I learned so many cultural and life-altering lessons that have guided the way I practice as a psychologist. While I lived there, I was able to uniquely observe the shaping nature language has on a culture. While I am sadly unable to remember the exact phrase that allowed this information to really sink in for me, I just remember thinking that many of our cultural differences are rooted in the structural differences in the way we construct language, and therefore our worlds. This realization was critical for me in my own ability to change my thoughts but also in my ability to understand just how important our words can be.
Another moment where the importance of language was underlined for me was during a yoga class when our teacher recited the quote I have listed at the bottom of my website while we were setting our intention for the class. I was so struck by that quote that I spent the rest of the class repeating the words in my head so that I could use them to emphasize some of my key points in therapy! (The opposite of the point of a yoga class but that's a different topic!)
Here's the quote again for those of you who love it as much as I do: "Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become character, it becomes your destiny." (It has been credited to many different people including Gandhi, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Lao Tzu, Frank Outlaw, Gautama Buddha, and the father of Margaret Thatcher).
My belief in the fundamental importance of language in creating our perception of the world is why I often tend to get very specific with my clients about some of the words that they use to describe situations and themselves. I believe that if we learn to change our words, we can change our perception and experience of the world. A simple example is as follows: instead of instantly describing events in dichotomous terms (“good/bad”), we can simply acknowledge that they are the way they are and then dig deeper to acknowledge and accept our emotional experience of the event. This will lead to lessened judgment of our experience and increased acceptance that life just is. It might feel “good” or “bad” but it really just is what it is. Once we can reduce our judgment, we are on our way to accept the life we have and then we are more able to make changes from a place of acceptance and peace.
Here are the first words that I work on with my clients during therapy:
Here are some other ideas about how to shape your language and perception in a more productive way. All of these are geared towards building up a more grateful and positive mentality to help move your thoughts away from negativity and towards a more resilient mindset.
In closing, I would like to also note that when I talk about gearing our mentalities in a more “positive” direction, I do not mean that we are not permitted to experience the more uncomfortable (“bad”) emotions. I believe that we need to pay attention to our thoughts so that they are not overly skewed in one direction (negative or unrealistically positive). I believe when we pay too much attention to unpleasant events, people, situations, and outcomes, we cultivate further negativity in our lives and struggle more to recognize more positive situations or events. As such, I recommend that we first honor our emotions by experiencing them and describing them accurately. Then we can let them go, particularly the unpleasant emotions, rather than ruminating about them as this only creates stronger patterns in our minds and makes it more likely to experience those feelings more frequently. I look at changing our thoughts as training for our brain. While you take steps towards these changes, please be patient and kind with yourself as it takes time to re-adjust your thoughts, words, and experience of the world.
Thank you for reading!
Have questions about our practice? Please contact us regarding any issues around adult, child or teen counseling services or marriage family therapy San Diego by Thrive Therapy Studio.
By: Dr. Erica Wollerman
Welcome to Thrive's first parenting blog! One of the components of my work that I am most passionate about is my work with parents through parent consultation (either on its’ own or in addition to a child’s treatment). I am excited to be starting a series of blogs that discuss parenting and give parents useful and effective tips that they can implement right away. I would like to begin today with several common topics in my parent consultation sessions and an overview of ways to set yourself up cognitively and emotionally to be an effective parent.
Before going into the tips, I would like to share a bit about my perspective on parenting and parent consultation. I fundamentally believe that children need rules, limits, and consequences. They also need parents who communicate with them, demonstrate their love, and are present in their lives to show them just how much they care, even when they have made a mistake. I would also like to share that as a parent consultant, I am here for parents as a collaborative partner. I have a wealth of knowledge and experience with children and parents that will help guide our work together but I always respect that parents are the expert on their family and their child. While I give a lot of feedback about how to help their child, none of that is coming from a place of judgment as I know that parenting is not an easy job and that children do not come with an instruction book. Please also keep in mind that the strategies that are posted are general strategies and not effective for every child. Children are all so different and respond to different things! As such, please feel free to seek further help with parenting if these strategies are proving ineffective for your child. I would love to hear from you and consult with you!
Tip #1: You are the parent, not your child’s friend (particularly when discipline is involved)
This is a tough one but so important in any discussion of parenting as our desire to be our child’s best friend leads us away from acting as their parent. Parents always need to remember that they are responsible for teaching their child how to be fully functioning adults and this means saying “no” and sometimes that your child will be upset with you because you are not giving them what they want. While this can be challenging, it is necessary. As a parent, you are the leader and you are in charge so the way you approach things sets the tone for your whole family.
Tip #2: Empathy works
Particularly for highly sensitive and emotional children and teens, they need to be approached with empathy and compassion for their situation and their feelings. Some parents struggle with this because they feel the child is acting “dramatic” but it is important not to shame them for their feelings by pushing them out of it before they are ready but to approach them with some compassion. Start by reflecting their feelings to them, “I can tell you are feeling (overwhelmed, sad, like everyone hates you, etc), that must be difficult.” Then let them share about it before helping them find solutions. Try not to go to solving the problem too quickly because they might feel that you do not understand and shut down more. Also, even when you are providing consequences, it is appropriate to be kind and compassionate. Sometimes parents are working so hard on being “strong” and holding the limits they set that they forget to connect with their child and give them some love too.
Tip #3: Set appropriate expectations
Your child is going to have strengths and weaknesses just like we all do. As such, the areas where they are less proficient will need extra focus, patience, and have more room for growth. These are often the areas that are most frustrating for a parent but it is important to thoughtfully consider if your expectations match your child’s abilities. Then you can recognize where your child is at and meet them there by setting expectations just slightly above their skill level. This way you are challenging them but not overwhelming them with the challenge, which can lead to giving up.
Tip #4: Consistency is key
One of the most important cornerstones of effective parenting is to be consistent. Children need rules and they need to know what to expect. I find a fantastic way to meet this need is by creating visual cues that help parents and children stay consistent.
Tip #5: Always keep your future goals in mind
This is a tip geared towards changing your mindset when disciplining your child and to help you stay firm in your expectations. When parents are wavering in their discipline and not setting consistent limits, it’s helpful to look at the situation differently and from a more neutral approach. For example, a goal for your child might be for them to understand cause and effect. As such, the first step is to recognize that they do not yet have this skill fully developed and will need support. When they make mistakes and break rules (ex. Hitting their brother), a consequence needs to be provided. They will often become upset as a result, but if you can remember that the consequence is there in order to teach them cause and effect, it might be easier to follow through.
Tip #6: It’s okay for your child to experience unpleasant feelings
This tip follows up on my blog last week about the “Happiness Obsession” and my belief that as parents and caregivers, we need to stop thinking our job is to protect our children at all costs. I get it. You love them so much that it is extremely painful for you when they are struggling or feeling uncomfortable/unpleasant feelings. However, sometimes those are experiences they need to learn the lesson at hand. For example, when a child makes a mistake, it is okay for them to feel remorse about it and to be bummed for a while. It is then our job to say, “I get it. I make mistakes too and I feel awful when I do. It’s okay to feel badly about it but remember that you are still a great person and everyone makes mistakes. How can we make this situation better?” Then we are providing support and empathy but validating that it’s okay to feel badly when we mess up. Protecting them from the unpleasant feelings would look more like telling them what they did is not a big deal anyways, telling them they were not really responsible for the mistake, or letting them off the hook for a consequence.
Tip #7: Take the yelling out of discipline
One of the most important parts of any discipline discussion is what I call “firm and neutral” parenting. This means that when giving a consequence it is done in a firm and neutral way. There is no yelling involved or shaming your child. Just matter of fact, “that is unacceptable behavior.” Then you give a consequence in a similar way “because you hit your sister, you will not watch TV for the rest of the day.” And that’s it! End of story. Try not to discuss the mistakes a child makes over and over as that simply gives the negative behavior more attention (which sometimes increases it!).
Take away points:
Have questions about Thrive Therapy Studio? Please contact us regarding parent consulting, adult, child or teen psychotherapy services or family counseling services in San Diego.
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