counseling, psychology, relationships, self-help

Is Your Perception Off? How Problems of Perception Can Hurt Your Relationships and How Counseling Can Help

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

I think many of us have heard that quote before….and to some extent it seems to hold true.

As a counselor, I find people often seek counseling because they want help in bettering an important relationship in their life. Clients may be bewildered to how an important relationship in their life has gotten to where it has gotten. Whether it is their spouse, family member, colleague, or a friend, I find clients will frequently claim to have NO idea how they got to such a bad place in the presenting troubled relationship.

Most of our problems in our everyday lives, including our relationships, arise from our inability to understand the power of perception and how this can affect one’s life, experience, and relationships.

It is the job of a therapist to guide clients to a better understanding of themselves and to a better understanding of how others may be experiencing them. Counseling requires the clinician to dive into a client’s worldview and challenge any cognitive distortions he/she may present with that may be causing conflict in their life.

I think we can can all agree it is much easier to see the problems in perceptions of others than it is to see in oneself. If you’ve ever listened to someone’s description or opinion of you and it sounded completely foreign, you probably found yourself wondering where on earth this person was coming from. Yet ask yourself, are you able to recognize when your opinion seems off base to another or when someone else has NO idea where you are coming from?

Do you feel you are cognizant of your words and actions–specifically the impact they may have on others?

People, more often than they care to admit, say and do things without thinking out the consequences of their words and actions. Maybe you find you are guilty of this as well. Most of us are from time to time. Being able to make amends when our behavior has a negative impact on another is the hallmark of emotional maturity. But before we can do this we need to develop a sense of self-awareness and how our behavior impacts others. This is why counseling can be so beneficial to everyone at one point or another over the course of their life.

As a counselor I find myself frequently asking clients regarding their behavior, “What were you hoping to accomplish by THAT?” This answer can very telling to the motivations behind what a person says or does in relation to other people. The sad truth is people often act against the very thing they are hoping to accomplish in their relationship.

In life, we often say things or do things without paying mind to what we are hoping to accomplish.

I find as a clinician if you can’t understand why someone is doing something, look at the consequences of their actions, whatever they might be, and you can in turn infer the motivations from the consequences their actions are bringing about.

Thus if someone is making everyone around them unhappy and you are scratching you head as to why, their motivation may be very simple—to make everyone around them unhappy including themselves. The fact is many people do not act in their best interest as head scratching as that may be.

Then there are people who are too easily ruled by feelings, impulses, and fleeting thoughts. Children have this luxury. Adults do NOT.

As an adult you are free to conduct yourself as you wish. But natural consequences are to follow. Thus if you tell off your boss, expect to be fired. If you drink and drive, expect to be arrested. If you eat 5,000 calories a day, expect your pants to not fit. If you mistreat someone, expect than to exit stage left out of your life. Insert bad behavior and negative consequence here.

Natural consequences are the inevitable results of our actions. The Buddhist religion refers to this as “karma.” Christianity refers to this as “reaping what you sow.”

In counseling, the clinician works with the client to figure out how their actions, words, and behaviors lead to the current state of their relationship. One of the many benefits of counseling is it challenges a client’s perception/cognitions (As a counselor, I am a big fan of cognitive behavioral therapy which entails cognitive challenging, cognitive restructuring, and cognitive reframing, which is a therapeutic process that helps the client discover, challenge, and modify or replace their negative, irrational thoughts ie their PERCEPTIONS).

The truth is everyone sees situations differently and based on what they interpret, their actions will be a perfect match for what they see. The problem with this is some people have faulty perceptions. In the end our perceptions form our reality.

This is why relationship conflict is inevitable and common. We are bring own your unique lens and worldview to everyone we interact with and to every relationship we have.

Counseling can be a helpful resource to figure out a way to mend a trouble relationship–whether with a spouse, partner, friend, coworker, or family member. Therapy can help you better understand how the relationship has unraveled to this point.

It is important to realize that perception is quite a self-centric and individualistic process. Allowing your perception to interfere with your feelings and the way you interact with others can be problematic if you are off with how you are perceiving things. When you are stressed, overly emotional, or suffer from some sort of mental illness or personality disorder, your perception is almost guaranteed to be off.

Through the counseling process, you can begin to unravel the many layers your world view and if you struggle with any problems of perception.

A common issue I see in counseling, is that some people can be led down the rabbit hole of worrying about how OTHER people perceive them

I gently remind clients we can’t control how others see us. But being mindful of how we’re perceived — and whether it matches with how we see ourselves can lead us to reflecting on behaviors we might consider changing.

Counseling brings the focus back to you and YOUR perceptions–not other people’s thoughts, perceptions, and feelings. All of which we are powerless to control.

Through the therapeutic process, your clinician can help you see many of our problems are caused by faulty ways of thinking about ourselves and the world around us. It is the therapist’s toolbox to help you challenge, reframe, and restructure how you view problematic relationships in your life–for your benefit, so you can adopt more positive, functional thought habits.

Counseling can also help you function better in your relationships.

The fact is most of us are not trained on how to listen or how to challenge our own perceptions. People attempt to validate their own perceptions—even if they are faulty! People selectively interpret what they see on the basis of their interest, background, experience, and attitudes. If you want to interact effectively with someone, to influence them, first you need to be able to listen to them and perceive them accurately–outside of your own projections, biases, and possibly misguided emotions.

Although it may seem overwhelmingly difficult to change your own ways of thinking, it is actually like any other thing you hope to get good at – it is hard when you first begin, but with practice, you will find it easier and easier to challenge your own negative thoughts and beliefs.

For instance, say you and your partner are having the same fight over and over again. In your mind, it is ALL your partner’s fault. If ONLY he (or she) can see they are in fact wrong, everything would be okay. Let’s be real here. People get into fights because neither side thinks they are wrong thus having this line of thinking is not beneficial to you or your relationship.

This is where cognitive restructuring can come into play to help you. THIS technique involves identifying a situation that leads to stress, anxiety, anger, and the thoughts and feelings that arose in that situation.  Working with the clinician, you work to examine the thoughts you have and in turn determine what is true about them and what is not true about them.  The final step is you work with the clinician to develop an alternative and more balanced thought and determine how you will feel (outcome) when you adopt this new way of thinking.

Cognitive behavioral therapy emphasizes three main components implicated in psychological problems:  thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. By breaking down difficult feelings into these main component parts, it becomes very clear where and how to intervene.

If you are struggling with managing your relationships in your life, it may be helpful to work with a clinician to examine the way you think. CBT works to identify unhelpful thinking patterns and devise new ways of reacting to a problematic situation.

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The power of reframing is undeniable. A change in perception of how you view things that others say to you, instantly helps you release tension. If you continue to operate on auto pilot without reframing your perceptions, what you actually experience is NOT the way the person experiences him or herself. You are experiencing your perception of the person–which may not be grounded in reality but clouded by your emotions and feelings.

More importantly when we dedicate the time and energy to work our perceptions and the way we experience life, we learn to focus on the now. Too often our perception is clouded by the past or future acts which have no meaning to the present moment at hand.  Only NOW matters in our interactions with others. Yes, there are times we need to process through and discuss the past with others or figure out a way to move forward, but this is all do from the space of NOW.

Too many people get stuck in the past. Or project their mind into worries over the future. Both cause problems in our perception of the here and now.

Perception forms the foundation of your life. YOUR reality. Which may not be the reality of other people in your life. If you can become mindful of every person you interact with has their unique lens of how they look at the world, it can help you better navigate the relationship. When you change the structure of your perception, you change the structure of your world.

If you find you are struggling with a valued relationship in your life, consider giving counseling a try. It might be just the thing you need to transform your life and relationships.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

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counseling, psychology, relationshipadvice, relationships, self-help

Is Your Relationship Happy and Healthy?

Do you ever wonder if your relationship is a happy and healthy one?

If you are worried about the state of your relationship, you are in good company. Whether you have been together for 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, or 30+ years, it is completely normal to evaluate the status of your relationship from time to time. Whether you are newlywed or refer to yourselves as old Ball ‘n’ Chain, every relationship has its share of ups and downs

A happy and healthy relationship is not based on one factor. While it is safe to say the happiest long-lasting relationships probably don’t have affairs, fly off the handle over leaving the dishes in the sink, or lie about secret bank accounts, one can say that a long-lasting relationship requires the acceptance that neither you nor your partner are perfect.

Below are some signs you are in a happy and healthy relationship with your significant other:

1)Your feel content and satisfied most of the time. Your relationship with your partner should make you feel loved and secure.  There are growing pains in any relationship. As we progress through life, we change and evolve. We are certainly not the same person at 55 we were at 25. Yet change requires growth, and growth is sometimes not easy.  In fact, some growth is downright painful, especially when it affects the way you feel about a key relationship you have come to rely upon as a source of connection, stability and enjoyment. Being able to change as individuals and evolve together as a couple is important to a healthy and happy relationship.

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2)You make each other want to do better and be better. People change and forget to tell each other is a common reason relationships fail. In a happy, healthy relationship you are encouraging each other to become the best versions of yourself–mentally, emotionally, physically, financially. Open, ongoing communication is key. There are a LARGE number of people who are willing to stay in a unfulfilling relationship because the thought of change is too scary. This is no way to live. You need to put in the effort to BE a good partner if you want your partner to do the same in turn. The good news is that pain can be huge motivator for change, so be willing to embrace the discomfort. As a couple, you shoot be rooting for each other to succeed in every facet of life. Change is never easy but if you can overcome the inevitable obstacles you will face together, your relationship will be stronger than ever when you come out on the other side.

3)You have a good physical connection including intimacy–emotional and physical. Sex is very important to a happy, healthy relationship. Sexual passion is something that may have peaks and valleys, but passion for each other and for their relationship is constant in happy relationships. Being able to be emotionally vulnerable is equally as important. Being able to let one’s guard down and be vulnerable is a key to a healthy and happy relationship.

4)You share laughter and have a similar sense of humor. Having fun together is at the foundation of any great relationship. Being able to laugh often with your partner is a sign of a gratifying relationship. Laughter is truly the best medicine but it is also the cornerstone of a strong bond with your partner. Laughter plays a part in the initial attraction through weathering the bumps of any long-term relationship. Humor is incredibly important in romantic relationships.

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5)You may not always agree, but are both committed to doing what is best for the greater good of your relationship. Relationships are tough and you have to be committed to doing what is in the best interest of your relationship even if this is sometimes at the expense of your own personal wants/desires. There will be competing interests vying for priority in your life from your career to friends to family, but your partner always need to be at the top of your priority list. If you put your partner first, your relationship has the legs to last a lifetime. Putting your partner first needs to become a habit in your relationship.

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6)You feel good about how your manage your life together. In other words, when you know what to do and what’s expected with you, you tend to be happier both yourself and with your significant other. When you and your partner feel unhappy with the allocation of chores, the stress in your relationship increases tenfold.  Couples fight just as frequently about who does what around the house as they fight over finances. So figure out what works best for the two of you. Maybe you do the laundry, but he takes the garbage out. You do the food shopping, but he takes the cars to be serviced. You and your partner should define whose job it is to do what.

8)You know how to recover from a fight. Even in the best relationships, conflict will happen. Happy couples talk. “Agreeing to disagree” is a refrain to become comfortable with because not ever problem has a viable solution. Having empathy for the other person is crucial in any relationship. You need to protect your relationship from things that can hurt the integrity of you, your partner, and your relationship as a whole.  Happy couples are not concerned about who’s right or wrong, as they regard themselves as a team above all else, and what is important to them is doing what is right for the greater good of their relationship.

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9)You have a shared vision for your life, even if you both have individual goals you are pursuing. Having a vision for your life together is essential. Do you and your partner set aside time to discuss goals–individual and shared alike? Making time together for planning, intention, and strategic thought as you move into the future together will bind you closer together and give you shared goals to work toward as a couple.

10)You accept each other for who they are—the good, the bad, the ugly. This one should go without saying, but there are many couples who love one another but don’t actually like one another. Happy couples accept each other’s imperfections because they are able to accept their own imperfections.  Perhaps more telling is that people who consider their partner to be their best friend are almost twice as satisfied in their relationships as other people. Loving someone for who they are is easier said than done but just as we wanted to be accepted with our shortcomings and all, we need to be able to provide the same to our partner.

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If you identify your relationship lacking in many of the aforementioned characteristics, I encourage you to seek professional counseling to address these issues and give you the resources to create and maintain a healthy relationship.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

counseling, happiness, psychology, relationships

Growing Up in a Dysfunctional Family: Whose Life are You Really Living? Are You Self-Differentiated?

Since my days as a counseling graduate student, I have ALWAYS been a fan of Bowen Family Systems theory.

Bowen Family Systems theory is a theory of human behavior that views the family as an emotional unit and uses systems thinking to describe the complex interactions in the unit. It is the nature of a family that its members are intensely connected emotionally.

Often people feel distant or disconnected from their families, but this is more feeling than fact. Families so profoundly affect their members’ thoughts, feelings, and actions that it often seems as if people are living under the same “emotional skin.”

People solicit each other’s attention, approval, and support and react to each other’s needs, expectations, and upsets. The connectedness and reactivity make the functioning of family members interdependent. A change in one person’s functioning is predictably followed by reciprocal changes in the functioning of others. Families differ somewhat in the degree of interdependence, but it is always present to some degree (Bowen Center, 2019).

Bowen really explores the differences between healthy functioning families and dysfunctional families.

There are several characteristics that are generally identified within a healthy, well-functioning family. Some include: support; respect is abundant for all, privacy is respected, love and caring exists for ALL family members; an emotionally safe environment is present, new members are welcomed, people go gentle on the teasing and sarcasm, the family provides security AND a sense of belonging; OPEN lines of communication exists; the family system ALLOW members to change and grow, and the family makes each person within the family feel important, valued, respected and esteemed.

A dysfunctional family, on the other hand, is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and abuse (physical or emotional) occur continuously and regularly, leading to other members to accommodate such actions.  Dysfunctional families don’t cope with stress in a healthy manner.  Blame is plentiful in a dysfunctional family. Poor communication is the norm. Boundaries are disregarded and habitually crossed. Rather than dealing with the stress that is causing problems, dysfunctional families lash out at each other.

If you grew up in a dysfunctional family, you are more likely to struggle with self-differentiation than if you were raised in healthy family systems unit.

Some signs you are part of a dysfunctional family unit (from Wikipedia):

  • Lack of empathy, understanding, and sensitivity towards certain family members, while expressing extreme empathy or appeasement towards one or more members who have real or perceived “special needs.” In other words, one family member continuously receives far more than they deserve, while another is marginalized
  • Denial(refusal to acknowledge abusive behavior, possibly believing that the situation is normal or even beneficial; also known as the “elephant in the room”
  • Inadequate or missing boundaries for self (e.g. tolerating inappropriate treatment from others, failing to express what is acceptable and unacceptable treatment of self and others)
  • Disrespect of others’ boundaries (e.g. physical contact that other person dislikes; breaking important promises, not respecting someone’s wishes; purposefully violating a boundary another person has expressed)
  • Extremes in conflict (either too much fighting or insufficient peaceful arguing between family members)
  • Unfair or unfair treatment of one or more family members due to their birth order, gender, age, family role, abilities (may include frequent appeasement of one member at the expense of others, or an uneven/inconsistent enforcement of rules)
  • Disrespect towards family members including shaming, displays of contempt, bitterness, ridicule, judgmental statements, demonization/dehumanizing, belittling, hypocrisy, excessive criticism, excessive gossip

Mind you, no family is perfect, even the functioning ones. Dysfunction exists on a spectrum.

Yet often in dysfunctional families members are very often enmeshed. Enmeshed families are rigid systems where boundaries are generally not respected. People in enmeshed families don’t know where they end and another family member begins. This is a hinderance to the differentiation process.

In an enmeshed family, control is usually an ongoing issue. Enmeshed family members often try to control how other family members think and act while simultaneously fighting off perceived attempts of feeling controlled themselves in how to think and act. Live and let live is NOT a mantra in an enmeshed family.

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Have you ever heard someone complain about the “drama” in his or her family? Chances are that the family fits the profile of the enmeshed family, in which each family member feels obliged to react to whatever is going on in the lives of other family members, effectively multiplying the tension.

In an enmeshed family, you will be made to feel guilty even if you didn’t do anything wrong. Any step outside the unspoken rules of the family system will be met with resistance.

Guilt, shame, abandonment, ostracism, and rejection are all seen in a dysfunctional family as methods of keeping members “in line” with conforming and behaving within the family systems unit.

Ask yourself the following…

Do you ever catch yourself defending yourself to other family members (your choices, beliefs, feelings, decisions)?  Are you expected to defend such? Are new members welcomed in? Is everyone with the family system overly involved in the lives of each other with little privacy? Is change frowned upon? Does a parent tell one child that they are their favorite? Are emotions contagious–if someone is angry, it rubs off on other family members? Do people form coalitions and gang up on other family members? Are you made to feel guilty for saying no? Are parents best friends with their (still underage) children? Are parents overly involved with their children and their activities? These are all signs of enmeshment.

What happens if you are the process of self-differentiation and de-enmeshment from your family? You will in all likelihood be met with resistance. Often anger and guilt to follow.

The truth is some people live their whole lives UNdifferentiated from their family of origin.

It can be too painful to self-differentiate, depending on the level of dysfunction, within the family system.

When you attempt to begin the process of differentiation, the reaction you receive from family members can be too much for you to handle, depending on where you are at in your personal development.

Am example is the following.  Imagine you grew up with a mother who wanted to know EVERYTHING about your life–a behavior that continues well after you are into adulthood.  Maybe your mom feels ENTITLED to know anything she wants about you (She is your mother after all! As she would readily point out if you resisted–ie the GUILT tactic).  Mom repeatedly asks you personal questions about all aspects of your life–despite the fact you are 45 years old with your own wife and kids. Mom’s MO is to grill you with questions regardless of how personal they may in fact be. There is no line mom won’t cross!

Maybe you begin counseling to figure out a way to set boundaries with mom. The therapist gives you strategies to how to better manage the relationship. Next time, you see mom for Sunday dinner, she, BEING the woman she is, asks you a question on a topic you feel uncomfortable with discussing (your income, your marriage, how you are parenting your kids, insert uncomfortable topic here). Maybe you usually answered whatever question asked by her (ie the path of least resistance) but this time you respond by saying you feel uncomfortable. Maybe your mother replies you are being too “sensitive” (a common rebuttal in enmeshed families when you set a boundary). She may even ask why you are being so “difficult.” You reply calmly to mom that you understand why she is curious but you are not interested in talking about said topic today (or EVER  for that matter but today works in this example).

After Sunday dinner, a few days pass…you start to feel relieved that you were able to set the boundary with mom.

But then your sister calls. Your sister shares with you that your mom has been complaining about you being “overly sensitive” and “difficult” lately with her (in dysfunctional families “triangulation” is common).

Mom, you see, is annoyed with you, for setting a boundary. For not playing her game as usual. Thus she is now venting to your sister about you, hoping your sister relays her displeasure with you. That such displeasure will get you back in line because change destabilizes dysfunctional family systems.

This is a prime example of triangulation.

Triangulation is a manipulation tactic where one person will not communicate directly with another person, instead using a third person to relay communication to the second, thus forming a triangle. Triangulation may manifest itself as a manipulative device to engineer rivalry between two people, known as divide and conquer or playing one person against another (Bowen Family Center).

Being labeled something disparaging is par for the course in enmeshed families when you start the differentiation process. Change and growth are NOT welcome in such family systems. Often, once you stop playing the family system game, you are criticized. This is part of trying to get you to change back and not continue self-differentiating.

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If you are wondering how self-differentiated you currently are, I copied and pasted Bowen’s Scale of Differentiation below.

Bowen’s Scale of Differentiation:

0……………………..25……………………..50……………………..75……………………..100

0-25

Can’t distinguish between fact and feeling

Emotionally needy and highly reactive to others

Much of life energy spent in winning the approval of others

Little energy for goal-directed activities

Can’t say, “I think….I believe….”

Little emotional separation from their families

Dependent marital relationships

Do very poorly in transitions, crises, and life adjustments

Unable to see where they end and others begin

25-50 (many people are here)

Some ability to distinguish between fact and feeling

Most of self is a “false self” and reflected from others

When anxiety is low, they function relatively well

Quick to imitate others and change themselves to gain acceptance from others

Often talk one set of principles/beliefs, yet do another

Self-esteem soars with compliments or is crushed by criticism

Become anxious when a relationship system falls apart or becomes unbalanced

Often make poor decisions due to their inability to think clearly under stress

Seek power, honor, knowledge, and love from others to cloth their false self

50-75

Aware of the thinking and feeling functions that work as a team

Reasonable level of “true self”

Can follow life goals that are determined from within

Can state beliefs calmly without putting others down

Marriage is a functioning partnership where intimacy can be enjoyed without losing self

Can allow children to progress through development phrases into adult autonomy

Function well–alone or with others

Able to cope with crisis without falling apart

Stay in relational connection with others without insisting they see the world the same

75-100 (Few function at this level)

Is principle oriented and goal directed–secure in who they are, unaffected by criticism or praise

Is able to leave family of origin and become an inner-directed, separate adult

Sure of their beliefs but not dogmatic or closed in their thinking

Can hear and evaluate beliefs of others, discarding old beliefs in favor of new ones

Can listen without reacting and communicate without antagonizing others

Can respect others without having to change them

Aware of dependence on others and responsibility for others

Free to enjoy life and play

Able to maintain a non-anxious presence in the midst of stress and pressure

Able to take responsibility for their own destiny and life

Maybe you are reviewing this scale and finding your are less differentiated then you would have previously thought. What to do now?

Counseling is a great outlet to pursue in beginning the differentiation process.

a1.jpg Once again, please excuse grammatical, writing errors. This blog is more about the content (I am not Charles Dickens here).

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

If you find yourself struggling with enmeshment, I find the following articles to be helpful resources of starting the process of de-enmeshing.

Resources:

https://drbaney.com/category/differentiation-of-self/

https://ct.counseling.org/2018/02/differentiation-of-self-through-the-lens-of-mindfulness/

https://theallendercenter.org/2017/10/the-differentiated-self-healthy-relationship/

counseling, happiness, psychology, relationshipadvice, relationships, self-help

Why We Should Not Take on Other People’s Problems: A Counselor’s Perspective

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Have you ever found yourself growing frustrated because “that person just won’t listen to my advice,” or because “don’t they seem to recognize how they are hurting themselves by acting like that,” or because “I can’t believe someone could be so irresponsible.”

I know I am guilty of this from time to time.

These are coming refrains we say to ourselves when we are in the midst of taking on other people’s problems. Maybe we feel compelled to solve the problem for our loved ones.  We can’t stand to watch them make a mess of themselves or their lives.

Yet we have no choice BUT to let other people live their lives. However they see fit. Without us making choices for them.  Or telling them what we THINK is the right choice. The bottom line is we cannot make ANYONE do anything they do not want to do.

We all, at least on an intellectual level, know that we do not have control over ANYONE but ourselves. Yet on an emotional level it can be hard to accept. One of those truisms of life I think we all struggle with from time to time.

As friends, family members, romantic partners…we can support, listen, encourage, ASK if someone wants our advice or help (but with the acceptance they may in fact NOT want our advice or help). It is then our job to respect the response we get regardless of it is the one we hoped for.

When we offer unsolicited advice, we alienate and annoy those around us. We also in turn frustrate ourselves when said advice is not taken.

The world is a tough place and you are not doing anyone any favors by solving their problems for them.  We can’t live other people’s lives FOR them. This can be especially hard to accept as a parent.

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How do you KNOW if you might be taking on someone else’s problems?

-You think about them AND their problems all the time.

-You talk about the problem. ALOT.

-You surrounded yourself with needy people.

-You feel you listen to everybody but NOBODY listens to you.

-You feel a strong sense of obligation to help others even when they don’t ask.

-You ignore your own problems because it is less painful to focus on OTHER people’s problems.

-You feel unhappy even though on paper nothing is wrong with your life.

-You feel the need to be validated by others.

-You find yourself experiencing a simmering resentment.

-You have been referred to as a peacemaker, helper, or fixer.

These are just a few signs you may be struggling with taking on other people’s problem.

How to be supportive without taking on another person’s problem is a fine line to walk.

Sometimes our desire to help, fix, or be the hero clouds our judgment.

Even when we KNOW what someone we care about is doing is unhealthy, self-destructive, bad, wrong, insert value judgement here, the challenge for us is respecting when they are not opening to hearing it or doing anything about it. If we cannot offer that respect, all we do is cause misery. For them AND ourselves.

People are free to mess up their own lives without us swooping in to save them. Trying to solve other people’s problems usually makes it worse, not better. Often we inadvertently create a whole other host of problems in the process.

Problems can only be solved firsthand.

You may be thinking, “isn’t it your job as a counselor to help people with their problems?” and the answer is yes, of course. To help them. Not to do it for them. The reality is if someone doesn’t want to do anything about the issue, there is nothing anyone can do to change them. Unless they want to change. As soon as you or I or any of us think it’s our responsibility to “fix” another person, we are in trouble.

My role as a counselor is to facilitate the process–but it is a client’s journey, just as anyone’s journey, is their own.

Does it ever drive me crazy? Absolutely.

Ultimately, I believe everyone has a right to lead their own life as they see fit.  We all have a right to our own choices, beliefs, behaviors. We are also responsible for the CONSEQUENCES for those choices, beliefs, behaviors.

As a counselor if someone is not ready to heal, grow, and face the truth of their life, I believe in respecting their autonomy (which is one the key ethical principles counselors follow).

If you have felt completely frustrated and hopeless about trying to solve a problem, it may not be a problem for you to solve.  It may be you are trying to solve another person’s problem. Or it might not be a problem at all but a truth that needs to be accepted.

If you find you have been trying to change or fix people and their problems for years,  how do you get off this roller coaster ride? Counseling can be a great avenue for you to sort through what drives this need. It can be difficult to stop the compulsive desire to fix other people.  Trying to solve other people’s problems takes its toll on a person.

Practice taking a step back.

Remind yourself you have your own beautiful life journey to attend to.

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To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822

etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

counseling, goals, prosocialbehavior, psychology, relationshipadvice, relationships, self-help

10 Habits of Highly Miserable People

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It is often said that happiness is a choice. For a miserable person, they often choose to make themselves (and those around them) miserable.

The unfortunate reality is not everyone wants to be happy. Most people with such a disposition never seek mental health treatment. They do not think they are the problem but the problem is “out there” ie in the external world.

Miserable people often have a woe is me attitude. This victim mentality grates on those around them. This mentality is exhausting to be around. Miserable people are often allergic to responsiblity.  A miserable person believes people are always out to get them.  They often portray themselves as victims who should be rescued, deserving of our sympathy and attention.

Below are some common ways you can spot a miserable person:

1)They love to blame others. Miserable people are often martyrs—it works as a get out jail free card for taking responsibility for their own life. They love to make themselves miserable under the guise of “helping” others. Having a martyr complex essentially involves pointing the finger at other people or situations in your life and blaming them for your disappointments, unhappiness, and emotional turmoil. The reality is no one is responsible for your disappointments, unhappiness, and emotional turmoil EXCEPT you. We all experience these feelings, but we must learn to process our feelings and move on. Miserable people like to stay stuck in the cycle of blame.

2)They love to pick fights. Miserable people love to make other people miserable. Misery loves company right? People who are constantly unhappy love to take it out on other people. Some people are disputatious and repel people with their snarky comments, rude remarks, and negative demeanor.  If antagonistic behavior is an ongoing thing with someone, you are likely dealing with an habitually MISERABLE person.

3)They will get involved in other people’s drama. Miserable people often feel their life is boring. How do they spice it up? By getting involved in the drama of others. (Some go as far as to create drama between others to watch it unfold). Miserable people find drama energizing. Happy people tend to disengage from drama and the people who create it. For miserable people, drama is a way of life.

4)They always expect the worst (of themselves, others, and life in general). Life sucks and all the worst thing that can happen, happens to them, is the mantra of a miserable person. Miserable people often expect the worst of everyone even the people they claim to love. They think other people have bad intentions toward them. The truth is most people don’t have bad intentions but are flawed people. You can always tell a person with bad intentions because when called on their behavior, it gets worse NOT better. They will get more aggressive, more demeaning, more negative.

5)They hate people. This kind of follows from #4. All of us experience negative thoughts from time to time. But a miserable person will make it known how much they despise their fellow-man (which in all likelihood includes you). A miserable person never has a good thing to say about anyone. People are the worst, people are selfish, people are liars, are common refrains from a miserable person.

6)They are selfish. Miserable people put themselves first (but project that other people are selfish, ironic I know). A miserable person drives people away from them because of their negative behavior. Life is hard enough, most people don’t want to spend their time with a Debbie Downer. Miserable people only care about themselves and their own troubles. Only their perspective matters.

7)They are envious of other people. A miserable person is NEVER happy for someone else. Miserable people think someone else’s success or good fortune takes away from them. They view life as a zero sum game due to their scarcity mindset. Miserable people do NOT have an abundance mindset that there is enough love, success, and resources to go around. For them, life is dog eat dog.

8)They hate change. Miserable people hate anything new or different. Change requires effort and miserable people usually don’t want to step outside of their comfort zone. Miserable people will complain about feeling “stuck” but will refuse to do anything to change their circumstances.

9)They love to complain. Complaining is their favorite pastime. This ties in with the blaming, playing victim, and seeking attention/sympathy while playing the role of martyr.  Chronic complainers seek validation and sympathy from those around them. Woe is me. For chronic complainers, every person, every situation, is an opportunity to go on a fault-finding mission.

 

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10)They never do anything to improve their life. Most miserable go through life stagnant. The game of life is too hard so they refuse to play. Yet they resent people who are still IN the game.  The only game a miserable person plays is the blame game. Miserable people are addicted to unhappiness and it becomes a way of life for them.

What are some common root causes of a miserable personality?

  • Low self-esteem
  • The appeal of martyrdom
  • A belief that being miserable is inevitable
  • Underlying depression and anxiety
  • Feeling trapped by your circumstances
  • Living with chronic stress
  • Resistance to being healthy–physically, mentally, and emotionally

The truth is our thinking creates our feelings. If you are chronically unhappy, you need to take a look at your self-talk and how you think about others and relate to the world. If someone or something is truly making you unhappy, you can leave the relationship or situation. 

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Living in the free world, the truth is we ALWAYS have a choice. It may not be an easy choice or a simple solution. Yet you have the freedom to not need to tolerate mistreatment or miserable circumstances. 

If you find your struggling with feelings of misery or a miserable person in your life, counseling may be a great place to begin the journey to a happier life.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Erin Doyle Theodorou, M.Ed, LPC, NCC

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com