anxiety, counseling, denial, emotionalimmaturity, happiness, humility, psychology, self-help

Letting Everyone Around You Grow Up

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I am a big fan of family systems therapy—specifically Murray Bowen. One of the pivotal concepts he posits is differentiation of self. Level of differentiation of self can affect longevity, marital stability, reproduction, health, educational accomplishments, and occupational successes. This impact of differentiation on overall life functioning explains the marked variation that typically exists in the lives of the members of a multigenerational family (Bowen).

Bowen also explores how the most trying part of becoming emotionally healthy is not over functioning in our relationships.

What do I mean by “over functioning?” By over functioning I mean doing your part and the other person’s “part” in maintaining a relationship.

I think the best thing you can do for yourself and other people is allow them to grow up.

What does it mean to let everyone around you grow up? It means to allow people to be who they are without you swooping in. From a Bowen family perspective, a true “grown up” is a self-differentiated individual–a person who has allowed themselves to grow up and allowed the people in their life around them to grow up (or not grow up).

The truth is some people are not personality wise able to grow up–but most people can, and most people will.

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Here are the steps to allowing everybody around you to grow up:

1)Stay connected to others but do not do MORE than your part. This is about knowing where you end and where others begin. 
We learn this growing up in our family of origin—if we didn’t learn that well, we can always go back and learn it. Counseling is a great avenue in processing through this emotional minefield. It is not easy for people who grew up in dysfunctional families. The message of self-differentiation is I care about you but no I cannot do that–the message being I cannot do more than I can or want to.  This is important for accomplishing self-differentiation.

2)Stop over functioning. If we attract underfunctioners–alcoholics, narcissists, takers, the self-absorbed, the immature, the needy, the demanding–we will be in a relationship system that pushes us to over function. We will find ourselves doing 150% or more of the work in the relationship. This allows these personality types to have a buffer to life’s realities. The truth is we give to others when we have that to give. But the truth is those of us who are overfunctioners, codependents, etc. tend to allow people to take from us when we DO NOT have it to give or do not WANT to give it.

Trying to be perfect is a form of over functioning. Perfectionism is a form of over functioning.

3)Stop figuring people out. The process of figuring people out is a form of over functioning. Now, I as a counselor, am in the business of “figuring people out.” But we should not do this in our personal relationships.  We figure people out because they do not want to do the work of figuring themselves out. Sometimes we figure them out to be more self-differentiated but often we are figuring others out to further the over functioning in our relationships. It is unhealthy. Figuring people out in our lives is a form of enmeshment. 

4)Stop over empathizing. Having and practicing empathy is not good for those who are not self-differentiated and well-defined (which is probably MOST of us). It is important to become more well-defined before we practice MORE empathy (hence why therapists are pushed to work through their own “stuff” to be effective in their practice). Focus on your thinking process, more than your feeling process to ensure you are not over functioning. Too often other people want us to over empathize and over sympathize to enable us to become enmeshed with them (remember, this is not a conscious process but subconscious). Do not over feel when it is the service of enabling or over functioning—a common issue with codependents. Start thinking more than feeling more.

5)Stop the enabling. Enabling is doing for others what they should do for themselves. It is taking the consequences or life lessons for others when they should be experiencing them themselves. Often, we over empathize and enable (especially with our children). In doing this, we are telling and sending them the message they can’t do life on their own–they are not strong enough, smart enough, capable enough leading to learned helplessness. Everybody has the same tasks in life as I do—we have to deal with unfairness, struggles, adversity, work, relationships, families, this is something we all have to deal with. NOBODY GETS TO OPT OUT and say nope, I can’t do it, so you need to do it! Our enabling helps and hurts at the same time. We often learn to enable at a very young age and from our family of origin. We need to root out this imprinting.

6)Focus on your own maturation process–your own self differentiation process. Look away from others and focus on yourself—certainly not in a selfish way but in a knowing yourself and becoming aware of yourself. We far too often become experts on OTHER people and NOT ourselves. Begin to become an expert on yourself!

Learn the lessons of self-differentiation. Learn more about that and how it works. When we are immature, we tend to focus on our fears and neediness AND others’ problems, issues, and immaturities. We need to get focused on OUR fears, our immaturity, and not get all focused on THE OTHER. We will be much more effective as people and be able to help in much more mature way.

7)Stop the one-sided relationships. If we have a relationship that is a combo of giver and taker, with us being the giver, this can become toxic and abusive. One sided relationships are the result of our low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, family of origin issues, fear of rejection, worthlessness, shame and reveal we are looking for love and acceptance from others –specifically others who are immature–no matter what the emotional cost to us. This is when it becomes a problem for us. WE CHOOSE RELATIONSHIPS THAT FIT OUR LEVEL OF SELF-DIFFERENTIATION OR OUR LOW SELF OR FEAR OF ABANDONMENT. Heal your self-esteem and you will heal your relationship choices and how you play your role in relationships.

8)Stop our illusions, naivety, fantasy thinking and feeling. We believe we can change others: FANTASY/NAIVETY. We believe we can make our parents be who we want them to be or fantasize if they will behave as we always wanted–an illusion. We put conditions on the relationship–if I only work harder, than THIS GOOD will come of it. If I do more, love more, become more–whatever the more “is,” I will change my spouse, my parent, my child, etc. No! Those are illusions. We need to root out the nativity in us. Learning about your own naivety is a good way to grow up. We continue to believe we have self-worth when everything points to us not having self-worth–this is denial. Our unresolved family of origin issues make us naive and immature because that is the family system, we grew up in. It is still inside of us regardless of our chronological age. To allow others to grow up, we FIRST must deal with our illusions and fantasy thinking.

9)Step down so other people can step up. Use the under functioning leverage for others to step up. Intentionally try to under function. This places the pressure, pinging, and systemic pressure on the other to step up. Or not. THEY MAY NOT. But the pressure is on THEM to GROW UP. If they don’t choose to, it is time for you to start dealing with your illusions and beliefs about the other. The best way to find out if they can change is you step down so they can step upIf they are not going to STEP UP that tells you something very important which you may not want to hear or know. But is important to our emotional health.

10)Get out of others way. If you’re a caretaker, fixer, overfunctioner, you’re getting in the way of others’ lives. The universe is trying to speak to them to grow up and be more mature and stop under functioning. We get in their way by stepping up too much.

11)Stop defending yourself with others. Defending yourself is a way that you enable other people not to look at themselves. Whenever you defend yourself, others don’t have to look at themselves because you are filling up all the noise with your defensiveness. Your defensiveness only furthers their denial and keeps the focus on you not them. Defending yourself will not bring about change in others but only will reinforce you on low self-image. REMEMBER DEFENDING YOURSELF EQUATES WITH ENMESHMENT. Do anything but defend yourself with those who do not want to grow up. Behave with boundaries, maturity, and calmly. More talking, more defensiveness, more explaining will only stress you out more and not accomplish your goal with the immature around you who do not want to grow up. If you stop the defending, they must deal with you and the situation more.

12)Exit triangles. Triangles are formed to keep the immature around us from growing up. If you told the other, time and time again, something you want them to know or understand and then you go to a third party and go communicate these things—now we have a triangle. Triangles are fundamentally unhealthy in relationships especially in families.

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Remember a person can have all the trappings of adult life–marriage, mortgage, career, kids. This does mean they are an emotional grown up.

Letting someone grow up is the BEST gift you can give someone. Letting yourself grow up in the best give you can give yourself.

These are just a few steps in the process of differentiation but there are probably many more. If you find you are struggling with any of the components of being an emotional grown up, counseling can be a great way to explore the differentiation of self-process.

If you find you are struggling with a self-differentiation in YOUR LIFE and would like 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, happiness, psychology, self-help

Why It is Time to Stop Ignoring Your Mental Health

As a mental health counselor, I am a bit biased when it comes to touting the importance of mental health. Yet there still seems to be an ongoing stigma that permeates our society regarding mental health issues and a sense of shame that persists for people who struggle with their mental health. What alarms me is that the stigma can keep people from seeking treatment. If you’re afraid of how your family, friends, or colleagues might react to a psychiatric diagnosis, you’re far less motivated to actually seek out help to get the diagnosis (and the accompanying treatment) in the first place.

Think about it. Would you be comfortable going to work and announcing you are struggling with depression? Or even coming clean to your close friends and family about emotional and psychological struggles–would you be able to share you have panic attacks with your loved ones? Or would you be embarrassed and try to hide this from those you love most? Admitting mental health struggles still seems uncomfortable and threatening for many in our culture. Enormous progress has been made but we still have a way to go.

It is something that frustrates me as I have witnessed firsthand how poor mental health can deteriorate the state of someone’s career, relationships, physical health, and life in general.

The fact remains that when someone comes down with a cold or stomach virus, the vast majority of us don’t hesitate to pop a pill or visit the doctor. But if we can’t seem to shake our endless worries or that nagging sense of worthlessness, we plug along as though nothing is wrong. We don’t care for our mental health with the same regard as our physical health (even though mental health can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, backaches, stomachaches, insomnia, etc). The relationship between mental health and physical health is now evident.

People with mental health problems, especially mild symptoms of anxiety or depression, often fly under the radar of their families, friends, doctors, coworkers — typically at great cost to individuals, families and society in general. Think about what a different world we would live in if people addressed their mental health issues before heading out into the world each and every day. Even if you’re able to work, fulfill family responsibilities and otherwise function in daily life, mental health problems can have serious consequences.

I truly believe mental health is just as important as physical health. Why? Because our mental health impacts every aspect of our life. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being.

Our mental health has a direct IMPACT on how we think, feel, and act. This means it impacts how we feel, think and behave each and EVERY day. 

Mental health impacts EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR BEING. It  determines how you handle conflict, stress & adversity. Your mental health impacts how you relate to others & yourself. Your mental health is central in the way you go about making choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

Your mental health is integral to living a healthy, well balanced life. Mental health struggles do NOT discriminate—people from ALL walks of life can struggle with their mental well-being.

Good mental health means you’re able to cope with daily stresses and accomplish personal goals. You are not fearful of new experiences or an uncertain future.

People who are mentally healthy have

  • A sense of contentment
  • A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun.
  • The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity.
  • A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships.
  • The flexibility to learn new skills and adapt to change.
  • A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
  • The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships.
  • Self-confidence and high self-esteem (www.helpguide.org)

Ask yourself–do you feel that you are as mentally healthy as you could be? There is no shame in struggling.  Having good mental health doesn’t mean you never struggle emotionally or do not experience bad times.

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Help is out there. The health of your mind if just as important as the health of your body. Counseling is a high-value–but temporary–investment in yourself.

Counseling is a proven process that teaches you how your mind works. Behavioral and emotionally interventions can and do help people who are struggling. Counseling helps you navigate your feelings, communicate better, build better behaviors, develop better relationships, build on coping skills, and relate to your thoughts differently so you can live the life you want.

Wouldn’t you like to learn how to handle your emotions better, boost your mood, and build on your resilience? This is YOUR LIFE after all. If you’ve made consistent efforts to improve your mental and emotional health and still aren’t functioning optimally at home, work, or in your relationships, it may be time to seek 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

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

 

goals, happiness, psychology, self-help

Are You Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable?

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Are you comfortable with being uncomfortable? For many people, the answer is a resounding NO.

Many of us prefer the easy road.  We fear change, so we don’t push ourselves to the next level. We possess a natural proclivity to stick with the status quo, to resist the unknown, to stay comfortable.

Yet discomfort as a natural part of the human experience. If you’re uncomfortable with discomfort, you probably run away from uncertainty and change.  But the fact is in today’s world you can’t run away from change!  Change is all around us-everything in life is fluid.

We exist in an increasingly fast paced world. You either evolve or let the world pass you by.

If you can’t force yourself out of your comfort zone and embrace the discomfort of change, you will remain stuck. We all have people in our lives who fight like hell to maintain the status quo– people who have not evolved in ANY sense of the word—in 5, 10, 15, 20, sheesh in some cases even 30+ years.

There is no growth without change.  The question is do you want to grow? Do you want to make progress in your life–in your career, your relationships, your health, your finances, your personal development? Or do you want to stay in the same exact place you were for many, many years?

It is easy to look at the people in our lives and see who IS changing and growing. We can just as easily look at the people around us and see who is the poster child of stagnation. Yet it is much tougher to take a good, long, hard look at ourselves.

Ask yourself–what has changed in your life since last year? Five years ago? Ten years ago? If you find the answering to this is “not much” this may be indicative that your growth game is NOT strong. If you stop growing, you are going to be unhappy.

The thing that often stops people from growing is their disdain of discomfort.

The truth is people often bolt at the mere sign of discomfort. But when you hide from the tough issues, you may play it safe and refuse to take risks.  You may steer clear of difficult conversations at home and at work.  Afraid of conflict, you may fail to challenge yourself or others, to greater performance and a better life. But when you expect discomfort as a natural part of life you do not overreact to it.  You are not thrown off by it. The real issue facing our society is many people feel entitled to not feel any discomfort in their lives. 

Being able to sit with your own feelings of discomfort without ACTING on them is a sign of emotional maturity.

Most people can’t even tolerate being uncomfortable for short amounts of time. This is why we see people disappear into forms of escapism and distraction— eating, drinking, drugs, drama, all kinds of addictions, or abusive behavior.

How often do we let discomfort stop us from being who we truly are or from living the life we dream?

Many of us are driven by the need to be comfortable at the expense of all else. There are people who crave security and certainty even if this consists of compromising on other goals they may have.

Many of us never even try because we are afraid to even start.

Because we all KNOW starting can suck. Whenever you start something new, it sucks. Not always, but quite often. You are the new guy at work, it sucks. You are the new student in school, it sucks. You are moving across the country to start anew, it sucks. You start a diet, it sucks. You start working out, it sucks.

Anything outside of our comfort zone can seem daunting.

A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.

Growth requires change. It requires discomfort. Ask yourself: are you comfortable with being uncomfortable? Can you go through the growing pains and make it out to the other side?

If you are going to win at this game we can life, it’s all about not letting your discomfort make you throw in the towel, not start the race, or give up in the middle.

You’ll get comfortable with being uncomfortable when you realize that pushing pass those feelings of discomfort and leaning into the discomfort is where you feel the most genuinely alive.  

You will also be able to handle WHATEVER life throws at you. Being comfortable with discomfort is the cornerstone of self-efficacy.

If you find you struggle with being uncomfortable and see it have a negative impact on your life, counseling may be a place to start processing through those feelings.

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, happiness, psychology, Uncategorized

Everything Can Change, If YOU Can Change

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Change.

Many people HATE change. They fight it like hell. Resist it at ALL costs.

We all know people who will do ANYTHING to preserve the status quo.

But you can’t avoid change. The problem with hating change is life is FILLED with it.

Everyone, from every walk of life, must deal with change.

Change is always happening, but the way people react to change can be very different. Some people respond with fear, others respond with denial, others RELISH change.

What about you? How do you handle change?

Are you someone who puts off changes that you know need to be made?

Do you resist change to your own detriment?

Are you a person who creates opportunities for change because you view change as growth?

As humans, we are designed as a species that can adapt to all sorts of environments. If we weren’t CAPABLE of coping with change in all likelihood, we would be extinct.

For some people, they are not against change. But they may resist BEING changed.  It is the source of the change that matters to them.  Some people do not like change that is imposed on them—by say a boss, spouse, or some other external source.

Some people don’t mind change...depending how big the change is.  Perhaps they can change a small aspect of their life but anything they deem to big and threatening is out of the question.

The truth is we all HAVE different thresholds when it comes to our ability to adapt to change. What I can handle you may not be able to handle or vice versa. Being averse to change or embracing it is a very subjective experience.

It all comes down to how comfortable you are with uncertainty.. Ask yourself–would you rather be WRONG or UNCERTAIN?

Some people say better the devil they know because the risk of uncertainty is too UNCOMFORTABLE for them to handle. Even when on an intellectual level a person knows uncertainty also comes with the chance of things being BETTER.

Below is a quiz I came across, that takes only a couple minutes, to get a sense of how much change you feel comfortable with:

https://www.leadershipiq.com/blogs/leadershipiq/122984769-quiz-how-do-you-personally-feel-about-change

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If you find you want to change or need to change but have not been able to bring yourself to do so, you may benefit from working with a professional counselor.

Counseling can help you step out of your comfort zone to a more fulfilling, happier life. As you change your behavior, you identity starts to shift.  Our identity is NOT fixed, we are all capable of changing for the better.

The question is are you READY for a change?

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, happiness, prosocialbehavior, psychology

Get Over Yourself: Why You Need to Free Yourself of Self-Importance to Live a Happy Life

 

I am NOT that important.

The show WILL go on WITH or WITHOUT me….that is fact.

And it liberating to know this. The truth will set you free!

Is it me or do people seem more self-important than ever lately? I feel this plays a role in the high state of anxiety our society lives and breathes in. Being self-important is a sure-fire way to be high-strung and easily triggered. It takes A LOT of energy to keep yourself at the center of the universe (I am exhausted at the mere thought).

The truth is nobody is watching you. Nobody is spending all day thinking about you. Very few people even care about you except for close family, friends, your significant other. Why such a seemingly harsh statement? Because you’re not that important (trust me, nor am I)! It is a tough but important message to hear if you want to be happy and emotionally healthy.

Self-importance can become a source of tremendous angst and unhappiness. Self-consciousness can create an obsession with how we appear to others, what they think of us, and with our image.

I have counseled people who are paralyzed by their self-consciousness and pervaded by self-important cognitions. When a person is self-conscious, they think as though they are on stage, and the audience (ie other people) are scrutinizing their every step.

Being self-conscious can limit our ability to enjoy the moment and express ourselves fully.  Cognitive behavioral therapy is really helpful in overcoming such a faulty thinking pattern.

Moreover, a colleague of mine recently shared a TED talk with me on freeing yourself of self-importance as a precursor for living a happy life. I copied the link to the TED talk above and found it to be an interesting talk to invest the 17 some odd minutes in.

Basically, the bottom line is you need to “get over yourself” if you want to be a happy person.

Usually when we hear the expression get over yourself we think of a self-absorbed jerk who is being inconsiderate of everyone around them–acting as if they are MORE important than others.

Yet we have ALL seen self-importance in action. It is the mother at the airport standing with all her and her children’s bags in the middle of the moving sidewalk, oblivious to those behind them who may need to pass. It is the person in the waiting room loudly chatting on their cell phone completely ignoring the NO CELLPHONES IN WAITING ROOM sign. The driver leaning on her horn because someone in front of her remains stopped when the light turns green—to allow a pedestrian to finish crossing. The colleague who takes credit for all apparent successes and blames others for all failures. It is the friend who talks twenty minutes nonstop about themselves without asking you how YOU are.

These scenarios are increasingly common in our day-to-day life. Yet can you recognize when you are in fact the offending party in said scenarios?

Getting along and getting ahead requires playing well with others, either in cooperation as friends, family, spouses, teammates, and coworkers. Yet many people struggle with doing just that. Our day-to-day life is filled with thoughts about what others may be thinking, what others may be doing, trying to figure out WHY someone said this or did that.

Yet how often do you ask yourself what effect YOUR words and actions are having on those around you? Healthy relationships require that you do just that. We are, by default, the center of our world.  Yet self-importance leads us to focus on how other people’s words and actions affect US, but fail to pay mind to when we are in fact the offending party.

Ask yourself how often do you:

~Worry about what other people are saying/thinking about you?

~Feel stressed that your problems are unique and NO ONE else struggles like you do?

~Obsess about your perceived shortcomings–looks, financial, success, grades, etc.?

~Induldge in over thinking—on a variety of topics?

Ask yourself honestly. How much of your day is spent focusing on YOU?

The thing is about self-importance, in its many different forms of expressing itself, is toxic. It pollutes the energy of those who need to feel self-important, as well as anyone and anything they interact with. Most other people, don’t appreciate being made to feel less than, will become defensive or take offense at the energy spewing out at them.

Being authentic doesn’t mean you don’t take care of yourself or look out for your best interests—of course you must. But you do this with an attitude of grace and softness rather than aggression or antagonism.

Empathy is at the cornerstone of emotional intelligence, but so is the ability to regulate our thoughts and behavior so as to have a positive effect on our own lives AND on the lives of the people we love and care for.

Daniel Goleman said, when we focus on ourselves, our world contracts, as our problems and preoccupations loom larger. But when we focus on others, our world expands.

We all have moments of  frustration, anxiety, and angst. But did you ever notice that all those situations have one thing in common? You.

At extreme levels, self-important thinking can lead to paranoia, a belief that others are thinking about you, talking about you, and paying attention to you when they are not. I often gently point out to clients that MOST people are worried about their own daily to do lists, families, obligations, etc. The truth is most people’s thinking is centered around them, not you. Most people are busy living their own lives–they neither the time nor the energy to devote to people who have little effect on them including you.

Ask yourself often what it is you want to contribute while you’re here, what impact you want to have on others and the legacy you want to leave behind.

If you want to be happy, don’t dwell on yourself so much.  Self-importance reduces our ability to go with the flow, while putting stress on our relationships. Viewing everything through a “how does this reflect on me” lens is unfair to others. People may begin to avoid us or keep conversations short with us.

If you really want to “get over yourself” once and for all, practice a daily gratitude practice. Embrace humility and being humble.

Take yourself LESS seriously. LIGHTEN UP.

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If you find yourself relating to this video or blog post, counseling might be a great place to process these emotions and figure out a better way to live and let live.

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