Taming Negative Self Talk

By Kacie Mitterando, LMSW

7am: *alarm goes off* “annoying… snooze.”

8am: “I’m going to start the water now so it’s warmed up by the time I’m done brushing my teeth.”

8:30am: “This outfit looks ridiculous, next outfit!”

8:32am: “This one too…”

8:45am: “Great, now I’m going to be late, all because I couldn’t find an outfit.”

9:30am: “Whatever, I’m just going to get a bagel with cream cheese… I’ll start eating healthy tomorrow.”

Each morning when we wake up we follow a routine we have set in our subconscious that we don’t necessarily think about. Most of us don’t have to remind ourselves to do the daily tasks like brush our teeth and get dressed. In the majority of cases, that’s because after spending day after day with this routine, it has now become a habit for us. A habit is a behavior that occurs automatically, because it is something that has been performed frequently in the past (2). If we pay close attention we may realize that the self-talk we’re carrying throughout our day has become habit as well, and something we don’t even always notice is there.

Sometimes our self-talk is reasonable, right? It can tell us good things, like how excited we are for the weekend coming up or remind us to make a to-do list for the work week ahead of us. However, this isn’t always the case, because our self-talk can also remind us of the negative without us being aware of it.

Negative self-talk is defined as the expression of our thoughts and feelings. These negative thoughts and feelings are counter-productive and often times have the effect of demotivating ourselves (1). When we’re self-bullying with this negative talk each day, not only is it a runaway train, but it also opens the door for depression and anxiety to set in. While it may not be easy, there are ways in which we can begin to quiet that bully inside of our heads!

Steps to challenging negative self-talk:

As in many other areas of life, the first step is awareness!

Become aware of the voice inside your head when it is talking to you and focus on what it is saying. If you’re a person who likes to make lists and write, jot some of the self-talk in your head down on a piece of paper or in a notebook. Keep a daily or weekly log of your self-talk! Try and take time out of each and every day to focus on the voice inside your head, the good and bad, and the impact that this voice is having on your feelings.

Visualize this voice

What does this voice in your head look like? Is it a clone of you? Does it look like someone you wish to be or someone you don’t like? Put a face to the negative self-talk and even bring it one step further by giving the voice a name! If we imagine this voice as another person, will we still let it beat us up in the way that it currently is?

Reality Test

Try and think reasonably about the things that the voice inside your head is telling you. Is there hard-core evidence against some of the anxious thoughts in your head, or are these thoughts just your personal interpretation of the situation at hand? What would your best friend/mom/family member tell you about this situation?

Talk Back

Don’t be afraid to talk back to this inner voice! You can tell the voice (that now has a name) it needs to leave, or that you don’t care or believe what it has to say. Give yourself the power back that the negative self-talk has taken away from you.

Interested in learning more?

If you’d like to work together to challenge this negative self-talk, call 347.994.9301

1. Nugent, Pam M.S., "NEGATIVE SELF-TALK," in PsychologyDictionary.org, April 7, 2013, https://psychologydictionary.org/negative-self-talk/

2. E. (n.d.). The Psychology of Habits: How to Form Habits (and Make Them Stick)., from http://routineexcellence.com/psychology-of-habits-form-habits-make-stick/#Understanding_the_Psychology_of_Habits_What_is_a_Habit

Is My Romantic Love toxic?

By Brittany Dursi LMSW

If you look up the definition of love, you will come across keywords like: attachment, attraction, intense emotional connection and affection.   It’s debatable if love is an emotion, choice, drive or a combination of all three. Like the need for social connection, we desire to love and to be loved. 

Studies have shown when people report being in love and are shown photos of their partner, the reward center in their brain is stimulated.  This is the same neurological pathway that is activated in the brain of individuals who use opiates and amphetamines (1). Representing that we have a thirst to experience love.

Let’s remind ourselves: healthy love has secure attachment where each has their own friends and life apart from that with their partner. They are trusting when they are not together.  Healthy love has attraction that brings out the “best parts” and builds the confidence of each individual.  Healthy love has an intense emotional connection that is non-judgmental, allowing each partner to open up, be themselves and feel supported.  Healthy love uses affection to show how much their significant other means to them and to assure their love.

So when does healthy love turn toxic? Let’s look at some signs.

Do you feel guilty making your own plans? Are you anxious when you aren’t together?

Often times, when people are in a toxic relationship they will feel criminal if they make plans without their partner’s involvement.  They long approval from their significant other and will cancel plans or avoid things they truly like as a result of not wanting to “stir the pot.”    Other times, the may find themselves unable to relax if their partner is out without them or if they haven’t heard from them in a period of time.  They may create scenarios in their minds without proof.  This can culminate anxiety, leading to arguments, snooping through their partner’s phone or searching for confirmation to solidify their preconceived thoughts.

Do you feel like you aren’t “good” enough or attractive enough?

Sometimes the toxic partner may withhold compliments to their loved one or engage in acts of infidelity as a way to gain control.  Other times they may break up with their partner without any explanation and then take them back. They may say things like “you’re ugly, fat, you have no curves, you’re not muscular enough, I can get anyone and anyone else you get is a downgrade from me.”  This is an act of manipulation to break down the other individual’s perception of them self. The goal is to rewire their thoughts so that they do not feel worthy enough of their partners love.  This can result in the other person believing they can’t experience love from anyone else because they don’t have the qualities that are deserving of it.  If their partner is telling them this than it must be true, right? If they are cheating there are obviously better people out there, right? They can’t leave, they’ll never find someone else like them.  Why am I not good enough?

When it’s good it’s great and when it’s bad it’s the hallway to hell

Generally there is a common theme in toxic love.  That is, the good times are used as an excuse to overlook the toxicity of the relationship.  So “she broke my favorite pair of headphones that were $300” is overcompensated because “she took me away for my birthday weekend.”  It validates and strengthens the cycle.  The individual may say they are “the most comfortable and myself with them” yet remains unable to disclose parts of their life due to the fear of it being used against them.  They say they are not judged by their partner but they often will be put down for their opinions or choices, which is followed by a decrease in confidence and an increase in codependency.  As the frequency of the cycle increases, the severity does as well.  When the severity increases the harder it is to break the cycle and get out.

Do you feel like you’re working to get affection from your partner?

Frequently in toxic relationships, affection will lack.  If affection is being denied it can cause an increase in the other individual craving it and looking for ways to receive it.  This can create  feelings of being drained, empty, lonely and unworthy.  When affection is than received, feelings of security, reward and pleasure surface even though it is short lived.  This cycle keeps the individual invested as they are on the quest to feel wanted and have affection from their beloved.  The one withholding affection can experience validation, increase in their self- worth and entitlement for the time being, solidifying their actions.

 If any of these scenarios feel familiar, it's ok.  You can break patterns of toxic relationships.  The first step is taking an inventory of your relationship and understanding there is a problem. 

Need help sorting through all this? Connect with me today to begin getting the love you deserve.

To talk to a clinician, call 347.994.9301

  1. https://www.growingself.com/addicted-to-a-toxic-relationship/

Making Decisions With Ease

Only make decisions that support your self-image, self-esteem, and self-worth. - Oprah Winfrey

Not being able to decide is a very frustrating place to be.  Indecision shows up for a number of factors.  Sometimes we are paralyzed by fear. Other times we are looking at a decision that requires we compromise our values in some way.  And sometimes we are just faced with so many decisions that we become overwhelmed. Whatever the reason, indecision sucks.  Let's take a look at some thing that make for a really good decision.  

1. Start With The End In Mind

Goal setting is useful in all aspects of our lives big and small.  Start asking yourself the questions that are going to clarify your goals.  For example, what is the overall feel you want to have in your home?  It will make picking paint colors easier if you want your home to feel calm versus cheerful.  And for the bigger stuff like "Where should I invest my money?" start thinking about what guides your investment decisions. Is it a particular amount of money?  Maybe you are more interested in only investing in companies that share your values.  

Big or small, it's important to start asking questions to clarify your goals. 

2. Set Fear Aside

From my experience, making decisions from fear has just not turned out that well for me.  This article from Bustle breaks down the term "decidaphobia" which was coined in 1973.  Fear can stop us from moving forward. In order to make good decisions we all have to develop habits that reduce our anxieties and allow us to feel safe in our lives.  Once fear has been removed, your real motives can goals can shine through and guide you to the perfect choice. 

3. Make Decisions With Your Wellbeing As A Focus

Are you someone that always makes decisions with others in mind?  Possibly you are the biggest people pleaser you know.  Well, coming to therapy...or reading this blog is a big reminder to stop that.  Yes it's good to be nice.  Yes it's good to keep people in mind.  But your decisions should always be guided from a place of self love first.  Remember, just like I tell my clinicians and my clients- You are the most important person in the room, wherever you go. 

Before we wrap up I just want to take a look at one more thing.  Maybe you are in a situation where you really want to make a relationship better or maybe you want to move forward with something but in reality you have dome everything you can.  In those moments it's important to remember that your deicison-making isn't flawed...rather, it's your ability to manage uncertainty that needs a closer look.  To manage uncertainty is to tame your fear.  And after all, the reality is, all of us are walking around just trying to figure things out the best way we can.  We cannot predict the future and we can only do what we believe is best with the most information we have.  Beyond that, our practice is to let go. 

How well do you manage uncertainty?

Tell me what you think in the comments below...

 

 

 

Three Tips To Finding Your Dream Job

 By Kacie Mitterando, LMSW

(opinion article)

How often have we heard the phrase, “Find something you love to do and you will never work a day in your life?” For many of us, it’s a phrase that has been drilled into us - being reiterated over and over again by parents, friends, and employers. This phrase has seemed to put us on this never ending path of searching for what we love. It has instilled in us that if we don’t find this, the alternative is to work a job that we hate every single day and well, who wants to do that? How do we search for our passion when student loans exist? We don’t have the capability of jumping from job to job or education to education because quite frankly, its unrealistic, impractical and well, takes up too much time! While this phrase may have been intended to give us motivation to pursue our dreams and never give up on our future, it is reasonably possible that it has become a phrase eliciting pressure and anxiety in many of us, especially those of us in our 20’s.

Finding your dream job can seem like an impossible task. After spending years in a classroom, hours studying and pulling all nighters, we want to feel that there is a reward at the end of the hard work put into our career path. So, how do we actually find our dream job? And how do we calm the anxiety that comes along with this journey?

Be Confident In Who You Are

You have just spent years working tirelessly towards your goals! And while “good things come to those who wait,” good things definitely come to those who work hard. Be confident in the work that you have done and know that if you continue to do the good you are doing, you will continue to be rewarded.

Embrace The Fear of Failure

Is it possible that failure can be a good thing and we should embrace this fear, rather than run from it? Maybe we have been taught wrong all of these years. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that failing is OK. Failing is often a great time to learn and grow from your experiences. If the fear of failing and not finding a job is creating stress and anxiety, practice embracing this concept.

Tap Into Your Values and Beliefs

Put extra focus and attention into what your belief system is. Do you believe that everything happens for a reason? If so, find faith in trusting the process and knowing that what is meant for you will eventually come. Do you believe in destiny? If you do, then you know that your purpose is consistently seeking to be fulfilled and discovered. Therefore, hold strong in obtaining this discovery. Do you believe that we have control over the events in our lives? If this is the case then continue your job search efforts and hard work! Overall, figure out what it is that you believe is meant for you, and push forward with this system.

If the fear and anxiety of finding employment upon graduating is dragging you down, hold strong in who you are, remember that failure is OK and tap into your belief systems. In the interim, don’t forget to de-stress by enjoying time with friends and family and embracing the simple parts of life that are meaningful to you.

Navigating Transitions

By Brittany Dursi, LMSW

Life is based around transition.  Transitions can be anywhere from exciting and empowering to catalysts for feelings of embarrassment, lack of self-worth and a loss of identity.  However, no matter the transition it is an opportunity of self-growth if you approach it in a healthy way.

Most of us have convinced ourselves that sometimes, a transitioning phase is a dangerous territory. Venturing there long enough labels you “lost.”  We formed this idea that we are supposed to always know our next move and if we don’t, what are we actually doing with our life?

The thing is, transition is the constant.  Because of that it’s important to find our unique way of effortlessly navigating transitions.  In fact, transitions can be a time to reconnect with ourselves and explore the parts of our lives that are preparing to bloom. Instead of living in anxiety, we can focus on watering and nurturing those parts. 

Whether you are getting out of a ten-year relationship, getting married, changing careers, graduating college, having children, learning you are unable to have children, moving in, being kicked out etc.  These are all changes, a transition is the process we go through in order to accept and understand the effects the change has on us. (1)

It’s okay to feel lost, its okay to feel sad

Sometimes we have a distorted comfort in familiarity. We may stay consistent as a way to not “fall off the map.”  Other times we reach for consistency because we genuinely enjoy where we are.  Change can bring us out of our comfort, distorted or not and it can lead us to feeling sad, lost and anxious.  Those feelings are genuine, real and should be acknowledged.  Acknowledge them.  Talk about them, because avoiding them is putting a bandaid on a deeper routed cut.

Seek Support 

Whether you’re introverted or extroverted having support from friends, family or others who have been in a similar situation can help alleviate some stress.  Talk, ask questions, open your mind up to learn and expand.  Once you close your mind off from learning, you have closed yourself off from growing. 

Explore and be Educated

Assess the situation, ask yourself: what do I have control over and what do I not have control over?  Do not allow the areas you cannot control, control you.  Instead focus on what you can do.  Research, plan, expand.

Realistic Roads

Set yourself a realistic timeline and realistic goals.  You can’t feed an infant hard food before they have teeth. Start small, work on being patient and accepting that great things take time.  Work on not losing track of yourself based on what you see others doing. You don’t know their truth, do not let what they present and what you perceive of them dictate how you view yourself. Stay true to you, set realistic, obtainable goals and work up. (2)

Transition is beautiful.  Transition is self-growth. Transition is okay.

References:

(1)  http://www.personalbrandingblog.com/dont-just-go-through-lifes-transitions-grow-from-them/

(2)  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fixing-families/201307/keys-handling-lifes-transitions

Set Better Boundaries for Emotional Safety

“No" is a complete sentence.” 
- Ann Lamott

Boundaries are the basis of our ability to stay safe physically and emotionally.  Boundary setting includes a number of things ranging from understanding our limits to practicing assertiveness. What's most important is that the outcome of not holding boundaries is not good. This includes physical and emotional harm, low self worth, depression and anxiety.  Inability to hold boundaries can also lead to dangerous behaviors such as substance abuse and self harm.

We first learn about boundaries as children in our nuclear family.   Aside from our families we also have unique ways of relating to others.  Over time we learn ways that keep us safe and capable of avoiding pain.  Sometimes our best attempts are not the best.  Therapy is a good place to explore our boundaries.  You and your therapist can learn areas of your life where boundaries are easily held and supportive as well as those that may need strengthened.  

Another aspect to understanding boundaries is the impact of trauma on our ability to protect ourselves.  According to Friedman and Boumil, any type of abuse is a boundary invasion. Families with poor communication styles reinforce confusion around when to be close and when to protect. Children from abusive homes have a tremendous amount of confusion around whether or not their body and thoughts are their own. (1)

Some barriers to boundary setting include: 

  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of confrontation
  • Guilt
  • Not being taught healthy boundaries
  • Safety Concerns

If you are dealing with someone who is physically dangerous or threatening to you, it may not be safe to attempt to set explicit boundaries with them. If you are in this situation, it can be helpful to work with a counselor, therapist or advocate to create a safety plan and boundary setting may be a part of this. (2)

Trauma impacts our ability to make decisions to keep us safe.  Finding a trauma focused therapist to help you slow down and stay with overwhelming and confusing thoughts can allow for the healing you need to start recognizing the possibility of boundary violations before they occur. 

Tips For Setting Better Boundaries

1. Learn to define your needs.  By clearly understanding your needs, you will be able to begin defining them for those around you. 

2. Cultivate the ability to trust yourself and your decisions.  In order to have healthy boundaries we must stop questioning ourselves. 

3. Cultivate decisiveness. As your confidence grows you will feel more empowered by good decisions as well as more forgiving of the bad. 

4. Learn that you are not responsible for the emotions of others.  Outside of not harming another person you have no responsibility for the feelings of those around you.  When we set healthy boundaries we realize we are only responsible for our emotions. 

5. Learn to value reciprocal relationships.  You deserve respect in every interaction. 

 

Resources for learning healthy boundaries

Where to Draw The Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day

Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life

Take Action today

What are some simple steps you can take today to understand your boundaries? 

Call today to speak with someone that can help. 

 

References: 

1. Betrayal of Trust: Sex and Power in Professional Relationships Joel Friedman Praeger, Jan 1, 1995 - Family & Relationships - 142 pages

2. How to Create Healthy Boundaries