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.

a2

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).

a1111

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.

a20000

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

 

Advertisements
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.

new year

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.

new year1.png

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.

new years 3

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.

d1

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

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

Emotional Dysregulation: Can You Recognize An Emotionally Immature Person?

a1

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

 

aging, counseling, psychology, self-help

Do You Feel “Old?”

age2.jpg

There is a lot of things that suck about getting older.

There is a reason they say getting old is not for the faint of heart.

Fine lines, high blood pressure, slower metabolisms, gray hairs, never-ending bills. Just to name a few.

Psychologically speaking, aging can be daunting, to say the least.

Then there is the narcissistic injury that comes with aging. NONE of us get to escape it. As we pass our prime, it is with a growing awareness that younger people coming after us haven’t yet reached their peak. You look at younger people and see the torch has been passed to a new generation. The generational guard has changed. It is THEIR turn. Yours has come and passed to a larger extent. The next generation is still building and designing their lives: education, marriage, kids, houses, careers, ambitions. Whereas you life in comparison feels relatively set.

It can be a bummer to say the least.

Perhaps “excitement” feels like an emotion of yesteryear.

And then of course is the startlingly realization there are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it once we reach a certain age.  Everyone is winging it, some just do it with more aplomb.

Yet there is also something extremely liberating about getting older: a shift in perspective, one that comes hard-won.

At some point you start to say to yourself: “I’m too old for this.”

This has become my M.O. for how I view certain things in life. I have been practicing it frequently and often, amazed at how I can ignore nuisances that once would have gotten to me or upset me. How much easier it gets with each passing year to be comfortable in your own skin.

Getting older helps you gain such awareness of yourself and all the trivial things you have wasted your time on over the years.

All the silly things that you spent your time and energy on. Oy. Wasted moments, days, months…(hopefully not years).

What have I come to realize I am too old for?

Judgments. My own (self-directed ones mostly). You know that voice in your head. The one saying you aren’t smart enough, strong enough, wealthy enough, pretty enough, thin enough. I’m trying not to judge myself so harshly for being human. For some reason, this non-judgment comes so naturally in my role as a clinician, working with others, but is more of a challenge with myself. I feel we struggle for years to accept our imperfections. Yet the fact remains we are all flawed. I can list off my many flaws– I sleep with my makeup on. I eat sweets more often than I should. I skip the morning workout session to get the extra 20 minutes of sleep to power through a 14 hour work day. I skip exercise on the weekends to do a bottomless mimosa brunch. I cannot draw or do anything artistic to save my life. I can on and on.

Letting others make my decisions.  When we are children, we yield to our parents. Sadly many people never outgrow this inclination to yield their decision-making to others. Some live their whole lives yielding to the will of others. Sure, you may have family/spouse/friends whose insight you may seek, but you are no longer making decisions based on what others think you should do. You are making decisions based on what is right for you. It’s liberating. There is nothing sadder than someone who lives their whole life living for the approval of others (which may never even be granted).

Expectations–Unrealistic ones specifically (both for myself and others). Figuring out how to manage my expectations without sacrificing my sense of idealism has been a struggle. I see the struggle play out with clients in our sessions, many who find it challenging to manage expectations in their relationships. It is so hard for many of us to accept other people are not here to meet our expectations. You see our expectations are based on our experiences and we all travel different paths on journey through life. I am mindful that all people have their own hopes, dreams, identities, ways of operating, and plans for their lives. Letting go of expectations are a must if you want to have an inner sense of peace and healthy, enduring relationships.

In my work as a therapist, I’ve met with many clients who share with me their disappointment with their friends, family, and coworkers. Disappointment is a soul crushing emotion. Clients share it is hard for them to let go and forgive the mistakes of others. Others cannot forgive themselves. I can relate to the feeling-I have been there far too many times than I care to admit. A huge part of my own personal growth was freeing myself from external expectations–the ones held by others towards me and vice versa. I gently remind clients (and myself) we are ALL doing the best we can at our personal level of development. It is important to live with an internal locus of control.

I am too old to keep my mouth shut when I see injustice— Life is not fair. That is a given. But I cannot enable bad behavior–especially in the large issues facing our society (in politics we see bad behavior playing out on the daily). I no longer want to keep my mouth shut when I see an injustice. Or feel one. It’s not that I never spoke out, there were times when I did, but it was usually on behalf of someone else. I never tolerated people mistreating people I cared about. But I learned life is short and the older you get your time is PRECIOUS.  We need to serve goals and issues outside of our selves.  Injustice to others is injustice to all.

Thinking something is the end of the world. Emotional scenes are tiring and pointless. Nothing is the end of the world. You have been through enough downs to know there eventually is an up. Reacting no longer seems necessary. If you get treated like shit, it would be wise to exit stage left.

Spending unnecessary time with people I don’t care for — I struggle to be around people who mean, petty, and close-minded. I think we all can relate to being in situations where people are squabbling over something asinine and thought what am I doing here? Life is too short to spend unnecessary time with people who are not in aligned with your values.  The friends you keep in your life have your back… you weed out the others. It saves a lot of emotional angst. Ones of the perks of getting older is your circle gets smaller, but with quality people.

I am too old to try to change people.  People’s youthful quirks can harden into adult pathologies. What is cute and harmless at 25 is pathological by 40. Be wary of people who are committed to the same misery instead of trying to change things for the better. By now I’ve learned, the very hard way, that what you see in someone at the beginning is what you get in perpetuum. I have come to realize people find comfort in the predictability, even the ritualization, of the same problems with the same people over and over again. Instead of going through the struggle of changing dynamics for the better, people rather stay stuck in the familiar misery they know.

Marriages, friendships, family relationships….people do-si-do, round and round until the music stops. People will go through the same toxic, unhealthy patterns just because it is familiar.

Toxic people? Sour, spoiled people? We should simply walk away. We get to not just be too old for but too wise for such nonsense.  At my age and in my field, I can spot trouble coming a mile away  (believe me, this is a big improvement). I spare myself a great deal of suffering, and as we all know, there is plenty of that to be had without looking for more.

To think I am special. Growing up, the “special” movement was full swing. Trophies for everyone! The fact remains more about you is universal than not universal. I feel a small percentage of us is unique but for the most part we are part of the cohort. A bit disappointing and also a relief.  We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. But the fact is, most of us are pretty average at most things we do.

For firsts. When we are young, we have plenty of firsts.  So many great new experiences! First day of school. First day of summer vacation. First date. First kiss. First real relationship. First terrible breakup. First real job. First… you get the point. When we’re young, life is full of firsts. I am too old for many firsts. But I look forward to not firsts, but different times. It may not be a first time but it will be a different time.

As you can see with time you evolve, just as the world does.  One upside to getting older? Research shows the older we get, the happier we are. Studies show as we get, our overall mental health, including mood,  sense of well-being and ability to handle stress, just keeps improving right up until the very end of life.

Something to look forward to.

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

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

age

 

 

 

counseling, psychology, self-help

How to Protect Yourself from Dramatic, Negative Behavior

a1.jpg

Today is Election Day.

As our country continues to become more divided and filled with ongoing conflict, I felt a post on how to mitigate dramatic, negative behavior (your own and other people’s) would be warranted. We are live in an EXTREMELY divisive society. It is important to know how to deal with people who live to manufacture drama in their lives AND yours!

The thing about our society is people have become very rigid in their views of the world. If you disagree with their way of thinking, they perceive you as the enemy. “Agreeing to disagree” seems to be a mindset of yesteryear.

In counseling we call this all-or- nothing (black and white) thinking. It is one of the faulty cognitions I work with clients on. It has become a very common way of thinking in our country—we see things in polarizing terms: good vs bad, right vs wrong, friend or foe, love vs hate,  on our side or against us, and so on and so forth. People no longer even ATTEMPT to find any common ground. “You are either with me or against me” is a common mindset in our society.

We need to do better. Life is much more nuanced than this simplistic form of thinking. Yet while we cannot control what goes on out there, we can control what goes on within US.

If you don’t protect your peace of mind, you will end up detesting life and resenting other people for your circumstances. We see this play out every day in the political arena.

Negative emotions are spiraling out of control across all walks of life. Being cynical is the norm. The ability to keep things in perspective and look at the bigger picture seems to be challenging for many.

As a clinician, I often have clients who come in to session keyed up who just dump their negative emotions out onto me.

This is an appropriate time and place for venting such feelings. Counseling is a place to process and release whatever it is you are feeling with a trained, mental health professional.

It is NOT appropriate to dump your negative emotions on people in your day-to-day life. This is a toxic way to act and behave. All too often this is happening in our culture–people offload their negative emotions onto anyone who will accept such behavior. In our political climate, politicians go after their opponent on a personal level instead of the policy.

This example set forth by our country’s leaders spills over into how our society as a whole conducts itself. 

This is why having healthy boundaries is more important than ever.

As a mental health professional, I have developed strong boundaries to not internalize what clients bring into session. It is important to not take on clients’ emotional state as to not burnout and protect my OWN mental health. I need to be able to leave work at work.

In life, we also need to be able to have good boundaries to not take on other people’s “stuff.” Nowadays far too many people find it acceptable to take out their negative state of minds on undeserving targets.

Maybe this topic is resonating with you. You may encounter, far more often than you care to admit, people who live for drama. People who are overly dramatic can be a drain on our time, energy, and mental well-being.

Dealing with dramatic behavior can be quite a downer.

You likely know exactly what I mean by overly dramatic behavior – it’s loud, aggressive, childish, intense, inappropriate, or any over the top emotional reaction. It frequently includes  yelling, gossiping, “emotional dumping”, crying, and acting like everything is a crisis.

a3

These people are the worst. Their behavior is emotionally and mentally exhausting. It is YOUR job to protect and guard yourself from these characters.

There are people who live for the control drama.  A person like this is likely feeling small and powerless in their own lives. Thus they try to manipulate and steal the positive energy of another. Control dramas emerge when someone tries to gain power or energy from another person and to essentially, “get their way with others.”

These types of personalities get their way with others by making their target pay attention to them and then attempt to elicit a certain reaction to make themselves feel fulfilled and powerful. Do any recent political debates come to mind? A few certainly do for me. This type of behavior comes from people who feel VERY powerless in their own lives. They may have money, status, and all the traditional markers of success–yet are very unhappy on a PROFOUND level.

For these drama makers, their positive feelings are won at the expense of the other person. These personality types like their to be imbalance and drama in their interpersonal relationships. They live for it! They love having someone (or something) to complain about, vent about, gossip about!

If there is not something readily apparent, these types will create the drama. After creating such a hostile environment, they will more often than not BLAME you if you are their target of blame. Look at our politicians on both sides of the aisle and you will get some great examples of people who LIVE for drama and attention.  (Mind you, these personality types tend to lack self-awareness for how they conduct their lives–throwing bombs and acting like the victim when confronted by their OWN abhorrent behavior. Reflect on some politicians at the forefront of our political landscape RIGHT NOW).

How do we protect ourselves from other people’s drama?

  1. Accept you are NOT going to change these types of people. You can’t change people who do not see an issue with their actions.  You CANNOT control what other people do but you can limit the role they play in your life. You also get to control how you respond. You need to cultivate the ability to not be baited into other people’s drama. You are wasting your time trying to explain yourself to people who are committed to misunderstanding you. People who truly care for you will want to hear how you feel and work on the relationship. If someone does not care about you, there should be no need to waste your energy on them. Keep it moving.
  2. Recognize when YOU are creating drama. Are you looking for attention and excitement? Bored a bit in your monotonous life? Be careful. Those mindsets can lead you astray into the world of “drama.” If you find a lot of drama is ever-present in your life, you need to look at the one constant: YOU. Helpful tips-Don’t give unsolicited advice. If someone does not ask for your opinion, do not just offer it up. Avoid inserting yourself into situations that do not directly involve you. Do not triangulate with people who are in conflict. All you are doing is creating drama for yourself. Listen I get it. I have done it myself from time to time in moments of extreme frustration. Or in trying to be a good friend. I have learned people’s actions may frustrate me but I gain nothing from letting my emotions lead my response. I also can see how other people use their emotions to bully and manipulate–once you are cognizant of this fact, you crease feeling the need to react at all.                                If I share with someone how I feel and they attack me, I do not engage any further. I already have my answer from their reaction. The situation need not go any further. I walk away from people who are not mentally and emotionally capable of mature relationships. If you get into a back and forth with people, you are in actual creating your own drama.
  3. Don’t feed into other people’s drama. Gossip. Third party conversations.  Learn to speak less and listen more. Be an observer–not everything needs your reaction. Don’t let people bait you into heated debates where each side digs their heels in deeper. It is a big waste of time.
  4. Physically remove yourself from the drama. Some people will never stop creating problems for themselves and you if you continue to associate with them.  Keep friendships with people who have good, positive energy and do not CREATE drama.
  5. Anticipate difficult people AND situations. Take inventory of people who leave you stressed and unhappy. Refuse to talk about sensitive topics with people who are known for the ability to stir the pot and amp up the drama. Ain’t nobody  got time for that.
  6. Stay in your own lane. If you are busy watering your own grass, you do not have time to worry about whose grass is greener now do you? Minding your OWN business is the #1 best strategy to avoiding drama. Life is too short for this type of nonsense.
  7. Remain emotionally detached from other people’s opinions of you. If you derive your sense of happiness and self-worth  from your own internal metrics and values, you become immune to the opinions of others. When you are happy in your own skin, other people’s opinions cannot impact your happiness because you are in control of how you feel about yourself.   Know this.  When mentally strong people feel good about something, they do not let the spiteful or shallow comments of others take that away from them. I am not saying you should automatically stop speaking to someone who is talking negatively about you. Give them a chance to make it right. Speak to them about it—you will get your answer about how to proceed in the relationship by how they react to you making them aware that you know how they have been speaking about you to others. If they make excuses, refuse to apologize or take ownership, or attack you more—you are likely dealing with a dramatic individual.
  8. Be calm and don’t engage. Dramatic people are looking for a reaction–sympathy, compliments, some type of reward, to blame shift. Do not reward their bad behavior. Setting boundaries will be paramount as will enforcing said boundaries.

I hope these suggestions will help you protect yourself from whoever in your life lives and breathes for drama. Most of us have the same basic need and desire to get along with others and live a drama free life. Don’t let negative, dramatic people steal your peace and joy.

a2

Your turn…

Have you been a target for a Drama Queen or King? Is your good-nature being abused because you’ve been inadvertently reinforcing their behavior? Do you have a personal story you’d like to share about dealing with dramatic people?  What helps you stay immune to the negativity that surrounds you?  Leave a comment below and share your insights and thoughts.

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