counseling, psychology, self-help

The Importance of Being Independent and Taking Ownership of Your Life

As a society, we have become very dependent on other people.

Of course, when we are children we have to rely on others. Children need others to provide food, shelter, safety, and the right environment for them to grow and achieve their potential. We organically become more independent as we progress through life. Yet some people never fully transition to self-reliance and total independence. They go from depending on their parents to depending on their partner or some other close relationship in their life.

The truth is as a culture we have a tendency to rely on others far more than it is necessary.

Depending on your life circumstances, you may be dependent on people for emotional support. Or financial support. Or for your sense of self.

Perhaps you are someone who seeks the approval of others. Or needs to be in a relationship to feel okay. Or your financial well-being is dependent on your parents or your spouse.

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At certain developmental stages and life stages, certain dependence is appropriate. For instance during adolescence, it is appropriate to seek approval of others as it is part of growing up. Anyone who studied Piaget knows about the imaginary audience and personal fable of adolescence. Teens may mistakenly believe that everyone around them is watching and judging them, scrutinizing their every move, and can become painfully self-conscious as a result.  But this is a phase we all experience (although some people never seem to outgrow it).

There is also nothing wrong with moving back in with your parents after college while seeking employment or staying home with your kids when they are young and depending financially on your partner. Or when you reach your golden years, depending on the assistance of others to help you, is often needed. Different life circumstances can create extenuating circumstances where we need to depend on the support of others.

Yet over the course of life, being independent, is vital to being a well-rounded, healthy functioning person. Being independent means being able to take care of your own needs and to make and assume responsibility for your decisions while considering both the people around you and your environment.

self-re·li·ance

noun

reliance on one’s own powers and resources rather than those of others.

Being independent and able to support yourself, in all aspects of life, remains the cornerstone of a well-adjusted person. Independence refers to all aspects of your life including financial, career, emotional, personal beliefs and values.

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 It is extremely empowering knowing that you are in control of your own life and your own choices.  Financially, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. You do not need the validation or support of others to be okay. Human nature being what it is, you may prefer it, but you do not NEED it.

There are many forms of dependence on others people struggle with but some of the most common include codependency, financial dependency, and emotional dependency. Often times such issues are what lead people to come to counseling. 

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Signs of codependency include:

  • Having difficulty making decisions without advice and reassurance from others
  • Having difficulty assuming responsibility for your life
  • Having difficulty communicating in a relationship
  • Having difficulty disagreeing with others out of fear
  • Valuing the approval of others more than valuing yourself
  • Lacking trust in yourself and having poor self-esteem
  • Having fears of abandonment or an obsessive need for approval
  • Having difficulty starting projects or doing things on your own
  • Having an unhealthy dependence on relationships, even at your own cost
  • Having anxiety or negative feelings when alone
  • Having an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
  • Having difficulty managing and defending personal boundaries

Signs of financial dependency:

  • You feel resentment or anger because the money you receive seems to come with strings attached, but you’re too scared of being cut off to say anything.
  • You have never been able to financially support yourself through your own endeavors
  • You lack even the most basic financial know-how, such as how to balance a checkbook or read a bank statement
  • You’re in a physically or verbally abusive relationship, or you’re simply unhappy with your living situation, but you worry you won’t be able to support yourself if you leave
  • You lack self-confidence and ambition and are scared you can’t support yourself
  • You have no idea what your family income level, net worth, or cash flow is

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Some symptoms of emotional dependency:

  • Constant and obsessive need to be close to other people
  • Constant insecurity about the future
  • Feeling of not being good enough to be with the other person
  • Obsessive fear of losing love
  • Constant feeling of guilt if they don’t pay total attention to their partner
  • Acceptance of psychological and physical suffering, for fear of losing the relationship
  • A constant and dominant feeling of anxiety

Many forms of dependence can lead to emotional distress. 

At the end of the day, you only have yourself to fall back on, so it is a must to be able to handle things on your own. All relationships end at some point or another, that is an inescapable truth. You never know when someone you depend on may pass away. Or leave. In life, anything is possible. 

Many people do not want to make choices on their own because they do not want to be responsible for the outcome. Taking responsibility can be terrifying. It is easier to blame others than to take ownership.

Taking ownership means embracing your power to create your own future.

As a clinician, many people come to counseling because they are unhappy about a certain aspect of their life. Yet before a person can change, they must take ownership that their choices and behavior that has gotten them to this point.  It is NOT the same thing as taking blame.

Taking ownership means you have CONTROL over your life.  Until you take ownership for your actions or failures, it’ll be very difficult for you to develop self-respect or even have the respect of others.

A person cannot be independent and simultaneously not take ownership for their life. Everything in your life requires you to take ownership: the good, the bad, the ugly.

A lot of people don’t want to hear this truth. I hear clients offer up excuses in sessions time and time again for an aspect of their life they find undesirable. We all indulge in this from time to time but at the end of the day everything in your life is a result of the choices you have made.

Your finances…your responsibility

Your relationships….your responsibility

Your health…..your responsibility

Your career….your responsibility

Your (underage) kids…..your responsibility (once they are adults, THEIR responsibility)

Your happiness….your responsibility

Your peace of mind….your responsibility

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To take responsibility for your life, is to take responsibility for your thinking, feeling, speaking and acting. You create your life with your thoughts, feelings, words and actions.

Stop blaming your partner, parents, economy, your upbringing for your misfortune.

Stop complaining. Complaining is another form of blaming and playing victim as if you have no choice. If you do not like something, leave the situation, change the situation, or accept it.

Realize happiness is an inside job.

Be the gatekeeper of your life and refuse to have a rerun of the same bad  behaviors, thoughts, and experiences of yesterday if they do not get you want you want in life.

When you take responsibility for your life and experience, you step into a place of calm confidence. When you are independent, you feel calm because you know that you are consciously in charge of yourself and that you can choose how you respond.

Standing on ones own feet is important. If you feel this is a struggle for you, counseling may be a good place to start the process of becoming more independent.

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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anxiety, counseling, goals, humility, psychology, regrets, relationshipadvice, self-help

Who is Your Ideal Self? 2019 is the Year to Be Happy and At Peace with Yourself

Hello, 2019!

We are officially in the kickoff of the New Year. It is the year before we head into the Roaring 20’s and you can bet next year will be a doozy, old sport.

New Year’s Day can feel surreal. Many of us are probably in the midst of setting our 2019 resolutions. (Or recovering from the night before–a time well spent with family and friends celebrating the end of 2018).

Goals are important. Setting goals give you a long-term vision and short-term motivation. Goals are what move us forward in life.

Personally, I am a big believer in writing down your goals. Research has shown that people who write their goals and dreams down on a regular basis achieve those desires at a significant higher level than those who did not.

I spent some time dedicated solely to jotting lists broken down into categories of different goals: Financial, Career, Health, Emotional Life, New Experiences, Intellectual Life, Relationships, Volunteer, To Do Around House, Family, Life Vision, etc. (Not going to lie, I LOVE making a good list).

Everyone would have different categories based on their life circumstances and values.

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It can be an emotional day come January 1st.

Mixed emotions may come about. We may feel overwhelmed about what are realistic, worthy goals to set for yourself.

While hope and motivation may be at the forefront of your mind, for others, there can be something so unsettling about the start of another new year.

Perhaps you are asking yourself, how did a whole year fly by just like that? That in and of itself can feel unreal. Time seems to be moving more quickly with each passing year. It can seem like we were JUST starting 2018 not too long ago. It is a bit wild how the years seem to fly by, blurring together.

For others, they can be facing feelings of melancholy about another year coming to pass. Another year where they did not achieve any of the goals they set out to accomplish. Or a realization that their life has long become stagnant. They cannot remember the last year where they did something new or different. They may feel unmotivated and uninspired realizing they have spent not just the last year but the last SEVERAL years procrastinating their goals. Many goals may have been lost along their journey through life.

The hard pill to swallow is a New Year can bring about the hard realization you may be stuck in a rut. Your life has become stagnant and you didn’t even realize it was happening.

As a therapist, the last couple weeks of the year, I find clients will often share renewed goals for the new year. But more commonly they will share with me the disappointments of the previous year.

Many of us view the beginning of a new year as the best time to make behavioral changes and overcome unhealthy habits. I know I buy into this time of year being an opportune time to catalyze change in my personal life.

Each new year is a blank slate.

Emotionally, a new year can be trying. It can feel upsetting IF we are not any closer to our goals or becoming the ideal person we hold in our mind (we all have this so-called ideal self–possibly a thinner, richer, smarter, more successful, more athletic, more charming, healthier, more ambitious version of ourself). If you feel this way, instead of building yourself up, you may spend New Year’s day beating yourself up over the failures of 2018.

The fact is we can never get rid of ALL the negative aspects of ourselves because those are very real parts of us. We all have parts of ourselves we struggle to accept.

We all have dreams we are chasing whether we share them with others or not.

The end of the year can turn into a tailspin.

Perhaps the last few months you have shelved even TRYING to become the ideal person you hold in your mind.

Perhaps you have even forgotten what your ideal self even looks like.

Yet goals that connect with our “ideal self” are most effective. The New Year presents an opportune time to connect with that ideal self.  When we RESOLVE to change, we feel better—more in control, more hopeful, more confident.

According to Carl Rogers, one of my favorite theorists, we ALL are constantly working towards self-actualization. According to Rogers, self-actualization occurs when we achieve our goals, wishes, desires.

According to Rogers (1959), we want to feel, experience and behave in ways which are consistent with our self-image and which reflect what we would like to be like, our ideal-self.  The closer our self-image and ideal-self are to each other, the more consistent or congruent we are and the higher our sense of self-worth.

But sometimes we lose ourselves on our journey to self-actualization.

This is why counseling can be a great first step to helping you get back in touch with the person you aspire to be. It can help you close the gap between your ideal self and your actual self. It can help get you back in touch with the REAL YOU, not the you who has been operating on auto pilot. A person is said to be in a state of incongruence if some of the totality of their experience is unacceptable to them and is denied or distorted in the self-image (Rogers).

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Steps to Achieving your Ideal Self

1)Reflect on your current self vs. your ideal self. What don’t you like about your current behavior? What accomplishments are you proud of? What are parts of your current self you would never want to change? What are parts of yourself that you have never seemed to be ABLE to change?

You are the life you lead–so choose your path mindfully.

How do you handle adversity? How you handle conflict? Can you keep your cool under pressure? How do you talk to yourself when you mess up?

What standards would you like to uphold going forward? What kind of person would you ideally like to be? Most importantly: WHY is it important to make these changes? Having a strong why is a MUST for lasting change.

2)Reflect on COMPETING GOALS. The fact is many of us have competing goals vying for our attention and time. We need to not be so hard on ourselves when we have to shift focuses. Life is truly a balancing act. It can be hard to strike a balance between being a good parent with a demanding career. Being social while being on a strict diet. Traveling the world while saving money. Managing our various goals can be TOUGH. You need to have flexibility in your expectations depending on what is taking precedence at any given time. Let go of absolutes in your thinking patterns–ALWAYS, MUST, SHOULD, NEVER.

3)What would you do–if money— was not a concern? For many people, money is a defining factor in their life. For others, it is a limiting factor. How differently would you live your life (if different at all) if money was not a factor? The answer can be telling.

4)What do you want people to say about you and your life at your funeral? Great parent? Good friend? Successful? Well-traveled? Kind soul? Did a lot of good for others? No answer is right. But how you answer this question reflects much on what you value in life.

5)Remember you ARE the life you lead. Ask yourself–what is your day-to-day life like now? Are you a dedicated parent? A career driven professional? Someone who makes time for loved ones? A fitness fanatic? Dedicated to healthy eating? Are you kind? Are you thoughtful? Are you having an impact in a positive way the lives of others? Are you well-read? Do you travel? Do you do the right thing? Do you sit by silently when you see someone being mistreated? Do you mistreat others? Do you mistreat yourself?

6)Remember you ARE how you spend your money. Ask yourself–do you value experiences over materialistic objects? Do you pour all your money into living the most extravagant lifestyle you can or do you live below your means saving for the future? Both are reflective of YOU AND YOUR VALUES. Do you spend more than you should? Do you save? OR do you feel well-balanced between the two?

7)Remember you ARE what you eat. Ask yourself—do you eat like you love yourself? Do you far too often indulge in processed food, sugar, and fried food? Are you committed to healthy eating? Are you committed to your health, period?

8)Revise your goals to better reflect your limitations and true capabilities. It is important to be honest with our positive and negative qualities. We ALL have limitations. Often our goals feel because we do not take said limitations into account. Be kind to yourself but be realistic. All unrealistic goals do is set you up for failure (and pain).

Most importantly: Our daily life IS who we are. How do you spend your days? If today, was your last day on Earth, could you say you are proud of the life you led? Are you happy with your day-to-day existence?

These questions may seem like a lot to think about and reflect on. The answers will be unique fo all of us and a reflection of our values. One caveat to keep it mind is we are ALL human. Do not expect to tackle EVERYTHING you set out to do all at once. We cannot expect to be our IDEAL self 100% of the time. Life happens (stress happens). None of us are always in a total state of congruence. If you are feeling overwhelmed, consider speaking with a therapist who can help you unload and process through some of those feelings.

Make 2019 the year you work hard, but work JUST AS HARD on self-compassion and being kind to yourself, as you stumble along the way to achieving your ideal self.

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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, psychology, relationships, self-help

Things to Give Up in 2019 If You Want to Be Happy

As we move into 2019, below is a list of things to give up in the New Year if you want to be happy. If you give up these things, you will experience more satisfaction and peace in your life. Take time to reflect on letting these things go forever.

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1)Negative Self-Talk. We all have our own unique “self-talk” and more often than not, as a psychotherapist, I find clients’ self-talk to be negative. People skew reality to be the worst possible scenario and in turn put themselves in a bad mood. I am a big CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) clinician and truly believe if a person changes their thoughts, they can change their life. If you shift your negative self-talk you can change your world view. Negativity steals happiness out of your life. No one likes to be around a Debbie Downer. No one wants to live inside the mind of a Debbie Downer either.

If you have an habitual inner critic you are likely creating significant stress in your life. This will take a toll on your mind, body, life, and loved ones.  What cognitive distortions do you turn to? Blaming, catastrophizing, personalizing, magnification, all or nothing thinking, jumping to conclusions?

Let 2019 be the year you begin to challenge your negative thinking. Remember thoughts and feelings aren’t always reality. Do reality testing—what evidence is there for and against my thinking? Are my thoughts factual or are they just my interpretation? Am I mind reading what other people are thinking? Am I jumping to negative conclusions? Is there another way to look at this situation? Is this situation as bad as I am making it out to be? What else can this mean? Try to put things in proper perspective for your OWN mental well-being.

2)Unhealthy relationships.  What constitutes an UNHEALTHY relationship? Any relationship that you do not feel respected, accepted, and safe. As we embark on a new year, do not bring unhealthy relationships into the new year. Anyone who lies to you, disrespects you, mistreats you, talks badly about you, makes you feel less than should be left behind in 2018. Life is short and hard enough without bringing people into your orbit who treat you badly. The sad truth is not everyone in your life wishes you well. Time to say adios to people who make you feel like you are hard to love.

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3)Gossiping. Stop manufacturing problems (which is exactly what gossiping does).  Complaining, bitching, ripping into other people. Do you truly think HAPPY people act this way? You are only creating misery for yourself by gossiping about others. You cannot feel good about yourself when acting badly. Of course there are certain people who are so toxic that they can bring out the worst in ANY of us (and unfortunately there is usually one of these people in any workplace, family, or social circle). Yet gossiping about everyone and anyone just start conflicts and assassinates other people’s reputation (more often based on lies and exaggerations).  Gossip is destructive to you and your relationships. If you cannot say it to someone’s face, you should not be saying it. Give up petty behavior in the new year and let good vibes flow. You will be a happier, healthier person for it.

4)Criticizing yourself (and others). If you are constantly finding fault with yourself and others, you can ensure you will be unhappy. A negative attitude cannot give you a positive life. We all have flaws and short comings. Are you constantly beating yourself up? Are you constantly criticizing other people’s looks, actions, words, on a regular basis? Unless someone is intentionally trying to hurt you (which sadly some people do have this mean-spiritedness in them), you should try to give people a break. We are all doing the best we can. People like to surround themselves with people who lift them up and make them feel good. When you are overly critical, you are your own worst enemy.

5)People pleasing. It is impossible to please everyone. You can try but you will drive yourself crazy in the process.  Have good intentions towards others but accept that you will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Make peace with this truth. People pleasing is an extremely unhealthy pattern of behavior. It puts a lot of stress and pressure on you. It causes you to seek external validation. True validation MUST come from within.

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6)Procrastination. Stop waiting on the things you want to happen in your life. Whether that is losing weight, getting a new job, making more money, cultivating healthier relationships. Start today. Even a small step is a step in the right direction.

7)Regret. We all have a few regrets but it does no one any good to focus on what COULD have been. We cannot find happiness in the past. Make peace with your past and begin to work on creating the life you want in the here and now.

8)Comparison. They do not say comparison is the thief of joy for nothing. Social media has given society a look into everyone’s lives but at what cost to our mental well-being? People are constantly comparing their lives to the lives of others. None of us have a perfect life. We all have struggles, difficulties, and pain.  We are all unique and started running the race of life at different starting points. Hence how can we possibly compare ourselves to others?

9)Approval seeking. A truly strong person does not NEED the approval of others any more than a lion needs the approval of sheep. It is also a losing proposition as NONE of us can get the approval of EVERYONE. So why set yourself up for failure? What other people think of you is none of your business. What other people think is more about them than you anyway. The fact is we all have our critics and that is OKAY. Let go of the need to be liked by all if you want to be at peace.

10)Resentment. Nothing eats through the soul like resentment. Boy does it feel good to be self-righteous (as resentment is the ultimate self-righteous emotion). Yet resentment fuels anger and depletes joy. Thus your resentment is ONLY hurting you, not the target of said feelings. You cannot change the past or other people. But you do not need to continue to give your power away to someone. Let it go. Let other people deal with the consequences of their own actions but do not continue to punish yourself for another person’s mistake.

11)The belief you are not good enough. This is self-explanatory. Self-acceptance entails accepting all of you–the good, the bad, the ugly. We all have these components. Make peace with who you are. You are enough. If you feel you are not, it would be wise to get yourself into counseling. No one should go through life feeling less than.

12)Entitlement. The world (and other people) owe you NOTHING. None of us are inherently entitled or deserve more than anyone else. Ask yourself: Do you impose unrealistic demands on your family and friends? Do you feel sorry for yourself? Do you punish people for not doing what you want? Do you see other people as threats or struggle with compromise? If you do, you likely are struggling with a sense of entitlement. Entitlement is a road that leads to misery.

13)Close mindedness. Stop thinking in polarizing ways–black/white, right/wrong, good/bad. There are many ways to view the world and diversity is a part of life. It is a part of the RICHNESS of life. Being rigid in your thinking will cause pain (largely for you but also those you try to impose your inflexible ways on). Learn to go with the flow or accept that you will continue to suffer. By your own making.

14).Anger. Anger really is a self-important emotion. Often what underlies anger are things like wanting your way or believing you are right. The bigger your ego, the more likely you are to struggle with chronic anger. Humble yourself or be humbled.

15)Thinking you are not ready. None of us are EVER 100% ready for a new chapter. We need to learn to feel the fear and do it anyway.

16)Expectations–both your own and other people’s. Unmet expectations lead to a whole host of negative emotions. If you didn’t have expectations, you would just take life as it comes. Without expectations, acceptance of what is would be easier. Other people’s expectations for you are NOT YOUR CONCERN. Unrealistic expectations that you set for yourself? All this does is set you up for disappointment and pain. Stop holding expectations for others–thinking someone will do what is in your best interest, not their own is UNrealistic. Stop holding unrealistic expectations for yourself–all you are doing is setting yourself up for failure.

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17)Control. The only control you have is of yourself (and that is hard enough to master)–everything else is out of your control. Don’t worry though–the same holds true for us all. We all are ONLY in control of ourselves. Stop trying to control other people and your environment if you way to live a healthy, happy life. If you don’t like a person or situation— change your attitude or leave the person/situation—all else is MADNESS. You cannot change other people or control the world. But you do not need to subject yourself to people or situations that make you unhappy. Either way, the choice is yours.

18)Resistance to change. Life IS change. Either accept that truism or create suffering for yourself. Change is difficult but pivotal to survival.

19)Limiting beliefs. Stop limiting yourself. What is your life script? What do you believe to be true about yourself, others, and life in general? If you want something to change in your life you are going to need to change. Dream big, work hard.

20)Scarcity mindset. The scarcity mindset in the belief that there is only so much success to go around. This mindset leads to hyper competitiveness and thinking someone else’s success “steals” from your own success. This is complete nonsense. Try to shift to an abundance mindset because when people are genuinely happy for the success of others, their own happiness and success expands.

As this year comes to an end, if you find you are struggling with any of the aforementioned, counseling may be a great investment for the new year. There are many benefits of counseling: greater self-acceptance and self-esteem,  improved relationships, relief from anxiety/depression/other mental health conditions, and ability to overcome self-defeating behaviors. Everyone can benefit from therapy. (I am biased I know).

Wishing you all a Happy and Health 2019, my friends.

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

anxiety, counseling, psychology, self-help, Uncategorized

Anticipatory Anxiety: Why We Need to Get Comfortable with Discomfort

Anticipatory anxiety is the anxiety we experience in anticipation of exposure to our frightening triggers. Anticipatory anxiety is a more complex problem than other forms of anxiety because in our attempts to avoid what we fear, we only make our fear and anxiety THAT much stronger. The only way to overcome anticipatory anxiety is to face your fear.

Anticipatory anxiety is a negative projection about an unknown outcome.

Common ways we cope with anticipatory anxiety?
-Drinking alcohol

-Taking anti-anxiety drugs

-Avoiding the source of our fear

-Seeking reassurance from others

If you struggle with anticipatory anxiety, you likely suffer from high negative emotions. You likely have high trait neuroticism. If you’re highly neurotic, it’s possible that you feel trapped by the trait’s maladaptive thought patterns, or struggle with depression or anxiety, both of which are more likely to occur in highly neurotic individuals. (If you are interested in finding your level of neuroticism, I copied and pasted a link to the Big Five Factor test that assesses levels of neuroticism as one of the fundamental personality traits).

https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/IPIP-BFFM/

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If you struggle with anticipatory anxiety, you are likely NOT open to new experiences. Anything that is not routine and within your comfort zone is going to spike your baseline anxiety levels. People who struggle with anxiety tend to be high in neuroticism and low on openness to new experiences.

If you struggle with this type of anxiety, you hate dealing with uncertainty. The problem with this is life is chock full of uncertainties. The thing is some people are okay with having a lot of uncertainty in their lives, and other people cannot stand even a small amount of uncertainty.

Some people may be temperamentally more “high-strung” and biologically more vulnerable to anxiety. It is important you seek treatment as left untreated it tends to worsen with age. Learning coping skills to mitigate anxiety is transformational to those who suffer.

Some common traits of people who are intolerant of uncertainty:

  • Seeking excessive reassurance from others: You want others to agree with you or reassure you. This might be asking friends or family their opinion on a decision that you have to make or asking for excessive support
  • List-making: As a way of eliminating uncertainty, some people will make long and detailed “to do” lists, sometimes several lists every day
  • Double checking: For example, calling loved ones repeatedly to “make sure” that they are okay, or re-reading emails several times to check that they are perfect and that there are no spelling mistakes
  • Refusing to delegate tasks to others: Many people who are intolerant of uncertainty will not allow anyone either at work or at home to do certain tasks; this is because they cannot be “sure” that it will be done correctly unless they do it
  • Procrastination/avoidance: Because being uncertain can cause anxiety, some people simply procrastinate or avoid people, places or situations. If you do not do something, then you don’t have to feel uncertain about it
  • Distraction: Many people who are intolerant of uncertainty keep themselves “busy” most of the day, that way, they don’t have the time to think about all the uncertainty in life

A common way we see anticipatory anxiety play out is in a common fear many people have which is of flying.

Here is how it plays out.

If you are phobic of flying, booking a flight might bring upon some anxiety. The week before the trip, your anxiety will likely begin to escalate. By the night before you are scheduled to fly, you may be on the verge of having a panic attack. In anticipatory anxiety, you imagine the future. You experience an imaginary airplane, not a real one.  You imagine what might happen if you get on the plane. You are at home, imagining one or a variety of imaginary in-flight disasters.Or feeling anxious about being trapped in a rocket ship (your own “internal” claustrophobia). You see stress depends upon imagination. Note I am saying you “imagine” because your imagination is creating the worst case scenario. Anticipatory anxiety has you amping up your stress response and mentally psyching yourself out.

When the day comes and it is time to leave for the airport you may feel like you are on the verge of a panic attack. Your imagination runs wild. You will continue to feel your anxiety escalate as you drive to the airport, go through security, and sit waiting for your plane to board.

Yet when you actually board the plane and take it off, you actually feel okay during the flight. This is because anticipatory anxiety is different from phobic anxiety. Yet while flying you may feel okay, if you were to think about scheduling ANOTHER flight, your anticipatory anxiety would ramp up. The thing about anxiety is it is often quite  irrational in nature.

Anticipatory anxiety is the fear and dread you experience before the event or situation.

It’s what’s at play when you spend weeks dreading the results of a doctor’s appointment, yet the news is benign and manageable. Or when you have social anxiety–you may struggle with the decision to accept or decline attending a friend’s birthday, but eventually give in and go, and have a great time!  “Why did I do that to myself?” you wonder.

Most people experience anticipatory anxiety, every once and awhile. This experience is the body’s normal response to perceived future threats. In the days and hours leading up to an important event you may be anxious and nervous, which is the stress response in action. It is anticipating the need to protect the body from threat or danger. Although this system is critical to our survival when there is actual threat or danger, it’s a big problem when there isn’t.

People who struggle with anxiety tend to have faulty cognitions. This is why CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can be so helpful in the treatment of this disorder. It is understandable that during times of high stress and uncertainty emotions run high. However, people who are anxious perpetually suffer from high stress and out of control emotions. Anxiety suffers tend to see things in black or white terms, in other words, as right or wrong, moral or immoral. They are not able to see the nuances and complexities of situations.

Common areas of anticipatory anxiety include:

  • Applying for a new job
  • Speaking in public or other performances
  • Going on a date or to a party
  • Joining a club, team or sport
  • Starting a job
  • Preparing for an interview
  • Going on vacation
  • Tests, projects and oral reports
  • Life changes: getting married, having a baby, buying a house, relocating, retiring

Underlying this sense of anxiety is the feeling that you cannot handle whatever it is you fear. It is a lack of confidence in your ability to cope.

Yet every time you encounter something that forces you to “handle it,” your self-esteem is raised immensely. You learn to trust that you will survive, no matter what happens. And in this way your fears are diminished immeasurably. You realize you can handle WHATEVER life throws at you.

Being anxious leads to behavior that drives others away. When we struggle with anxiety we feel compelled to control other people and our environment. Anxiety leads us to manipulate others because we desperately need them to act in a way that feels safe to us or predictable. It is a self-defeating strategy as this type of attitude will act a repellant to healthy-functioning people.

Once you have this confidence, you are able to face challenges head on because you are not dependent on a particular outcome. You know no matter the outcome you can cope.

People who struggle with anxiety lack the confidence to cope with stress. Remember true security and confidence is knowing you can handle things. Underlying any anxiety disorder is a lack of trust in ourselves.

Think of it this way: IF YOU KNEW YOU COULD HANDLE ANYTHING LIFE THROWS AT YOU, WHAT WOULD YOU POSSIBLY HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT? The answer is: NOTHING!

Remember that the mind and body is designed to adapt. Too often people forget the inherent resilience of the human spirit. As long as you continue to face the things you fear, your anticipatory anxiety should subside. Short-term use of medications that calm anxiety may also be useful — talk to your doctor to find out what is best for you.

As long as you continue to grow and evolve, there will be new challenges and fears to face.

So the choice is yours. Grow, evolve, and face your fears OR choose to stay stagnant and in a bubble throughout your life. If you continue to do what you have always done, you will get the same results. If you want new results, you need to try a new approach.

Attempting to do anything new is uncomfortable and anxiety producing. This is a universal human experience. But anxiety is paradoxical–face the painful feelings now and feel incredible after or feel relief now and face the painful feelings later. We must push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Because in doing so we get to the other side: a place of genuine growth and a better version of yourself.

Remember coping with anxiety is a life long process. Be kind to yourself.

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

Anew Counseling Services LLC

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

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

 

anger management, counseling, emotionalimmaturity, forgiveness, loneliness, psychology, relationshipadvice, relationships, self-help, Uncategorized

Emotional Dysregulation: Can You Recognize An Emotionally Immature Person?

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Can you recognize an emotionally immature person? A person whose emotional age is far behind their chronological age.

Of course, this does not include children and adolescents. Children and adolescents are not expected to have a full grasp of their emotions. Part of their development process is learning how to regulate and control their emotional responses.

Yet once we reach adulthood, you will encounter two distinct types of people: the emotionally mature and the emotionally immature. You will be able to detect quite quickly the type you are dealing with.

Emotionally mature people master control of their emotions meaning they are emotionally regulated. Emotional regulation involves maintaining thoughts, behaviors and expressions within a socially acceptable range. Therefore, you are not going to break down in tears in public or in the middle of a tense work meeting. You are not going to start screaming at other people or make a scene in public. You are not going to hurl insults and name call your coworkers or clients. You are able to appropriately respond to life stressors. Emotionally immature people never develop this ability and tend to struggle with emotional dysregulation.

Emotional dysregulation is a term used in the mental health community to refer to an emotional response that is poorly modulated, and does not fall within the conventionally accepted range of emotive responses. Possible manifestations of emotional dysregulation include angry outbursts or behavior outbursts such as crying or melting down, high levels of anxiety, being inflexible, aggression towards self or others, inability to adapt, etc.

Emotion dysregulation is associated with many psychiatric disorders such as major depression, PTSD and C-PTSD, mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder/borderline personality disorder, and substance abuse.

Emotional maturity is defined by the ability to control your emotions and take full responsibility for your life.  A large part of being emotionally mature is having the ability to handle anger, disappointment, fear, jealousy, resentment, insecurity, and a myriad of other feelings appropriately. Emotional maturity is defined when you have the ability to experience these emotions and then let them go. People who are immature seem to remain stuck in these negative emotions, unable to get past them.

Emotional maturity is the ability to see life clearly and accurately, and to deal with it. Often we may not like how it is but we are mature enough to recognize that it is what it is. We are not in control of much in life–including circumstances and other people. For many of us, this is just a given.

Emotionally immature people cannot do this-they often expect life to be easy or comfortable all the time and if it isn’t—they look at who or what is to blame. They often try to control others and their environment since they struggle to control themselves. These are very childish people in terms of their emotional responses.

No matter who we are, we will all eventually meet, perhaps at work or our extended social circle, an impossibly immature person.  The person may look mature, and have many adult responsibilities, but emotionally, they are still a child. A person who can at times present themselves appropriately but can turn on a dime acting hurtful, rude, inappropriate, tactless,and dangerously childish whenever the need suits them.

Emotionally immature people can be extremely challenging to deal with, because their ability to interpret and react to the variety of life’s challenges is often impaired.

Emotional immature adults are known to throw “adult temper tantrums.”  Whereas adults tend to stay calm, emotionally immature adults are quick to anger and rage. They cannot control their emotions much like a toddler. They can cry uncontrollably and be unable to hold themselves together when confronted with the slightest inconvenience or the smallest amount of stress.

Now this is to not say we all do not have our moments. None of us are perfect and we all will have our off days. What I am talking about here is a pattern of behavior over time.

Emotionally immature people tend to struggle with emotional dysregulating i.e. the ability to regulate their emotion responses.

Whereas mature adults, respond not react, immature adults are impulsive and can blurt out hurtful, tactless words.  Mature adults recognize sometimes it is better to say nothing than to say something we will live to regret. We are not going to flip out on our boss because we got passed on for a promotion or tell our sister to screw off because we are upset with her. We are able to think before we speak as to not make things worse for ourselves (and others). This is because people who are psychologically mature have impulse control. Emotionally immature people never cultivated such an impulse control.

Often for one reason or another, the person never quite grew up.

Below are the telltale signs of an emotionally immature person:

  • A person who is emotionally immature will: be reactive; see himself as a victim; act out his emotions (intense or gut reactions, like explosive anger, sudden crying, etc)
  • A person who, like a two-year old will throw temper tantrums because they are entitled to get their way even to the detriment of those closest to them (they feel they have the right to attack anyone who thwarts their wants, needs, goals)
  • A person who is be self-centered and concerned with self-protection; appear to always be justifying his actions to himself or others
  • A person will be manipulative; be motivated by fear or a feeling that he “has to” do something,” as well as a need to avoid failure, discomfort, and rejection
  • A person who whines & complains frequently or literally acts like a crybaby
  • A person who must be right and is incapable of hearing differing viewpoints
  • A person who escalates things emotionally
  • A person who loves to blame and name call
  • A person who has a low frustration tolerance. They are not able to deal with every day stress. As the result, they will become excessively emotional
  • A person who speaks recklessly without thinking about potential consequences (adults resist the urge to react in order to avoid shooting out hurtful words/action–they self-soothe). Such a person believes they can blurt out whatever they think or feel even if it hurts or alienates those around them
  • A person who bullies. Adults respect boundaries.  Emotionally immature adults do not
  • A person who has immature defense mechanisms. Children tend to regard the best defense as a strong offense.  Similarly an emotionally immature adult attacks anyone who expresses a viewpoint different from what they want
  • A person who is passive-aggressive. Subtle insults, sullen behavior, stubbornness, or a deliberate failure to accomplish required tasks.

As we grow up and mature, we learn that much of life we cannot control including other people and circumstances. We recognize life is constant change. The ability to adapt and evolve is a must.

We recognize much of life is unfair.

We do not get the job we deserve. We are passed over for the promotion. We have health problems. Financial problems. People we love pass away. Friendships fade, relationships end. People we love move away. We do not have perfect parents, the perfect partner. We are not perfect partners or parents either.

Yet there is a sense of humility in the emotionally mature. With emotionally maturity comes the recognition that many things in life are complicated. We develop the ability to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. We humble ourselves when necessary. We also recognize most things will pass and get better. If we let them. But emotionally immature people cannot get out of their own way.

Emotionally mature people recognize the complexities of life. We will not always get what we want. We will be disappointed. We cannot always get our way. Things will not always go according to our plans. Other people will let us down. We will let ourselves down.

As a counselor, often what brings people initially into treatment is an ongoing struggle with an important relationship in their lives: spouse, child, parent, etc. Our level of maturity will determine how we manage everything in life including our relationships.

Emotional mature people are able to acknowledge others are entitled to live their lives the way they see fit, to not like us; to leave us. We understand others have the right to speak badly about us, or even to hate us. This is not to say we do not try to discuss it with the person at hand or make things better but we know that this is not always possible. As I wrote on a previous post, this is where it is important to be psychologically flexible.

Emotionally mature people recognize we are only in control of ourselves. This is where our power is. We can be agents of positive change or negative change, the choice is ours. Mature people recognize they are not entitled to anything in life. A mature individual does not lose control and give into irrational thoughts simply because they haven’t gotten their way.

As a clinician, it surprises me how many people growing up, were never taught coping skills. I have seen many people were never taught to self soothe or regulate their emotions. They never learned how to effectively handle the problems in their life or deal with stressors. Some people will not be able to cope with the difficulties of life and do not have the ability to face and overcome obstacles. These people will continue to exhibit childish behaviors.We all have our bad days but if you generally function as a grown-up, the more clear you are about what qualifies grown-up behavior, the more you will be able to stay a grown-up even when you are interacting with someone who is acting like a child.

Emotion regulation is essential for healthy functioning (Grecucci, Theuninck, Frederickson, & Job, 2015). If you experience emotion dysregulation, you should consider seeking qualified professional help.

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

Anew Counseling Services LLC

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

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com