5 Scary Tricks

5 Scary Tricks That Make You Confused in a Relationship

We’ve all learned how to move toward pleasure and away from pain in our relationship interactions. When Professional Women (or others) get caught up in confusing interactions, it’s “normal” to question our “normal.”  As kids, it’s okay to play “trick or treat.” But when it comes to adult relationships, it can be rather scary. That’s why we need clarity about the 5 scary tricks that make you confused in a relationship. Clarity is the first step of awareness to change what I define as “dance patterns.”

The five scary tricks include: gaslighting, guessing, grumpy, gloomy, and gregarious.

Scary Trick # 1 – Gaslighting

The term “gaslighting” has become a way to help identify manipulative behaviors of men toward their “submissive” wives. It comes from the 1944 movie “Gaslight” which depicts a man with ulterior motives. He fools her with hiding pictures, strange footsteps, and dimming the gaslight to make her believe she’s crazy.

A form of gaslighting might look like this. You had a conversation with your spouse about your weekend plans. Then when the weekend arrives, they tell you “we never talked about it.”

The term gaslighting has become a way to help identify manipulative behaviors of controlling spouses toward their submissive partners. Click To Tweet

If you feel crazy in your relationship, this might be a pattern to throw you off kilter. Likely, the situation is crazy and not you, which brings us to Scary Trick # 2 – guessing game.

Scary Trick # 2 – Guessing Game

Does your spouse like to honor you with surprises? And you like them?  If so, this trick may not apply. But if he or she knows that you don’t like to be surprised, yet they keep you guessing, you’ve likely been caught up in scary trick #2, guessing game.

You need to plan or know what to expect. That idea is worthy of respect. When you are left in the dark over upcoming events, it’s a form of control. Of course, we’re not talking periodic surprises like Christmas or birthday gifts. Instead, this pattern is designed to keep you in a subservient position.

Here’s an example:

Wife – “I’d like to get a babysitter for Saturday so we can go on that date we talked about.”

Husband – “Let’s just wait and see.”

Several days pass and she’s left wondering. She’s on the verge of nagging, stressed, and in need of a date. Then his mother shows up on Saturday ready to babysit so he can “surprise her.”

Your need to plan or know what to expect is worthy of respect. Click To Tweet

Both gaslighting and guessing are scary tricks in adult relationships. Which brings us to Scary Trick # 3 – grumpy.

Scary Trick # 3 – Grumpy

An empathic spouse wants to understand her grumpy partner. “I know he’s worked hard to provide for us” are excuses I hear in the counseling office. But in reality, she is enabling this scary trick # 3.

We are all responsible for our own emotions. If stress is taking a toll on you at work, it’s time to learn effective coping strategies. If your grumpiness is a symptom of insomnia, it’s time to learn good sleep hygiene.

We are all responsible for our own emotions and attitudes. Click To Tweet

But if being grumpy is a consistent relationship pattern and your spouse continues to make excuses for you, this is a scary trick that leads to relationship doom. As the fourth-deadliest horsemen that Dr. Gottman identifies as “Contempt,” this long-term grumpiness will doom a marriage. And that leads us to address Scary Trick # 4 – Gloomy.

Scary Trick # 4 – Gloomy

It’s hard not to be judgmental here. Because scary trick # 4 could easily be classified as a type of depression called Persistent Depressive Disorder.

As a “disorder,”(which used to be called Dysthymia) it is a low grade depression that lasts two or more years. It doesn’t present as suicidal depression, but it interferes with normal social, occupational, and relationship functioning. This is easily treatable with proper therapy.

But the “scary trick” side of gloomy is when the person chooses not to get treatment. Instead, they live with it until it becomes part of their character. They have subconsciously chosen to live a small, narrow, negative life. They are unaware of how others around them can get sucked into a black hole. It affects the entire family and puts the developing minds of growing children at risk.

This is likely an unaware “scary trick.” And it’s vitally important to surround yourself with positive friendships apart from the gloomy one. In other words, don’t get caught up believing that you are the only one who can “cheer him up.” We cannot do for others what only they can do for themselves. And if this “scary trick is coupled with Scary Trick # 5 – gregarious – we have a problem.

Scary Trick # 5 – Gregarious

Of course, home is the place to relax and be yourself. But if your loved one keeps on showing you the worst part of him and shows acquaintances the best, it’s time be aware of scary trick # 5 – gregarious.

Gregarious is an adjective meaning friendly, sociable, and outgoing. Everybody enjoys being around your spouse. But when consistently experiencing his grumpiness with you, it’s time for clarity and change.

In summary, these 5 scary tricks can give us clarity. We are not the ones who are “crazy.” But instead, we might be caught in “crazy” interactions – gaslighting, guessing game, grumpy, gloomy and gregarious.

If you are on the receiving end of these scary tricks, it’s time to take a step back. Notice what’s really going on. Avoid thinking of yourself as being “the only one who understands” the other person. You deserve to be clear and confident in your relationships. Most of all, you need to feel safe.

Your next step

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Overcome imposter syndrome

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome Every Mental Health Professional Needs to Know

Are you a Mental Health Professional? Do you need confidence in counseling sessions, because you deal with messy relationships at home? Do you wonder if others struggle with personal issues like you do? Well, look no further. This article addresses overcoming Imposter Syndrome Every Mental Health Professional needs to know. These tips will help you accept, align, and articulate your next steps.

Tip # 1 Accept your imperfections

We all need to grow into acceptance of our imperfections. This tip is vitally important as we meet with our clients in counseling sessions. Many clients will think you’ve arrived at your perfect destiny in life just because you are a therapist. But it’s our responsibility to normalize that we are all in process.

Even though we’re trained with credentials, we are still human beings with flaws and blind spots. We need to accept the reality of our imperfect humanity. When we do, we are giving our clients the courage to do the same.

It’s common to compare ourselves as inferior. Especially we encounter others with more education, status, or influence. We see the presentational dimensions of others, and then judge ourselves as less than. We don’t see their daily grind or interactions with family members. We don’t see what their loved ones see up close and personal.

Even though we’re trained with credentials, we are still human beings with flaws and blind spots. We need to accept the reality of our imperfect humanity. Click To Tweet

Besides, our lives are more than what we present to the outside world. Rather, we are all human beings with strengths, weaknesses, privileges and/or disabilities. We all have various roles and ways of relating that likely reveals our true character.

We listen to the harsh critic inside our heads. Then we magnify our struggles, flaws, and missed opportunities. But when we can accept our own imperfections, we give our clients hope. Any conflict or difficulty we encounter are actually opportunities for growing awareness.

Remember, none of us have “arrived” at perfection. That would be rather depressing if there was no room for improvement. This leads us to tip # 2. Align with reality.

Tip # 2 Align with reality

The catalyst for my writing “Beyond Messy Relationships” was my second husband’s season of psychosis. He was out of tune with reality. As he experienced paranoid delusions from his manic episode of Bipolar disorder, it brought me to a greater level of awareness. It made me aware that most of us live with “normal” and acceptable delusions.

As a reminder, delusions are beliefs and thoughts that seem like they are true. But in reality, we all have limited beliefs and automatic thoughts that we think are truth.

When my book was published I began my own “paranoid” thoughts. I thought, if my clients read it, they will likely say. . . “And why are we seeing her as our therapist?” And perhaps some have read it and chose not to come back. But many have told me they read the book and were deeply touched. In fact, they’ve gained courage and confidence for their journey. Phrases like these have encouraged me as their therapist.

“Wow, Judy. If you can go through these kind of challenges, I know that I can too.”

“I really identified with you when. . . now I know I’m not alone.”

Keep in mind that I’m not advocating that all of us mental health professionals should write and publish their memoirs. But, for me, it’s been an amazing journey of aligning with reality. It’s increased my awareness and made me more aware of those automatic delusions that say, . . . “if they only knew. . .”

Now that brings me to tip # 3. Articulate with trusted colleagues.

Tip # 3 Articulate with Trusted Colleagues

It’s so vitally important to build relationships with trusted colleagues. Since we’ve been doing Telemental Health sessions through months of the pandemic, we’re even more isolated than before. In fact, our isolation from peers in our industry exacerbates our imposter syndrome challenges.

Our fear of judgement from other mental health professionals keep us from growing with colleagues. Of course, it’s a risk to open up. But when we begin to do life with other colleagues, we soon discover that we’re not alone.

As with anything, our circumstances will change and adapt over time. But, these three tips are foundational as it applies to overcoming Imposter Syndrome every Mental Health Professional needs to know.

Our fear of judgement from other mental health professionals keep us from growing with colleagues. Click To Tweet

In summary, let’s take heed and apply these three tips right away: Accept, align, and articulate your beautiful authentic self.

Your Next Steps

You can get the 1st three chapters of “Beyond Messy Relationships.” Just fill out the form below.

Get the Buy One Get One Free offer. I’ll send you the author-signed copy to you. So you can share with a colleague. Go here: https://www.judycounselor.com/beyond-messy-audio/

3 Tips to Attract Ideal Clients Every Mental Health Professional Needs

There’s no doubt that every Mental Health Professional starts out with a whole lot of questions, especially at the beginning. The problem is, many experience burnout and stress by being a “general practitioner.” They take on cases that drain their energy. It might be the insurance industry, or just thinking they need to fill up their hours. Rather than submit to systems that feel too enclosed, many just throw up their hands and give up. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are 3 tips to attract ideal clients every mental health professional needs. These three tips will help you breathe fresh A.I.R. into your profession. They are Awareness, Intentionality, and Risks.

Tip #1: Awareness of what drains or energizes you

After reading the book, “Getting the Love you Want” by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelley Hunt, I was curious about Imago Therapy. Then, I spent a weekend assisting another seasoned Imago Relationship Therapist. It was my first exposure to this particular modality. I felt energized in seeing couples transform from conflict to connection. While facing my own insecurities, I was drawn to get more training and become certified. The following exerpt is included in my book “Beyond Messy Relationships.” I pondered the words of my spiritual director, Dr. David G. Benner.

We talked about my growing counseling practice. I felt both unsettled and drawn to counseling couples. But how would pastors or prospective clients trust me as a couple’s counselor since I was divorced?

He said something like this: “Judy, allow your counseling practice to grow out of your being. Remember you are a human being. Don’t get caught up in living as a ‘human doing.’ Let your counseling reflect your grounding in truth. Remember that you are a person rather than a theology.”

You can count on there being seasons of transitions and change throughout your counseling career. Especially now while we are all facing the effect of the pandemic, it’s vital to know what is draining and what is energizing. This profession requires acute self-awareness. We must be attuned to our needs as Mental Health professionals.

Remember you are a human being. Don’t get caught up in living as a ‘human doing.’ Click To Tweet

Expect days in which you wonder why you entered this field in the first place. And other days may feel like “holy ground.” Of course, we have “normal” days in which neither extreme happens. But of course, we strive to make space for those “aha” life-affirming transitions.

Given our continual awareness, this leads to tip # 2. Intentionally envision your ideal practice.

Tip #2: Intentionally envision your ideal practice

Without a vision, we are sure to remain stuck doing the same therapy year after year. We work with the same type of clients because insurance dictates our client load. As a result, we put ourselves at risk for negativity, cynicism, and stress.

But just as we plan for vacations with a specific destination in mind, we need to envision our ideal counseling practice. It’s vital that we evolve, learn, and innovate ourselves professionally.

So many of us become isolated even in group practices. Without awareness, we stay in our comfort zone with those we’ve known for years. We go to the same conferences for our CEU’s.

It’s vital that we evolve, learn, and innovate ourselves professionally. Click To Tweet

Here’s a couple of conferences I’ve recently learned about.

Not So Typical Psychotherapist Summit
Therapy Reimagined 2020

It’s extremely important to build relationships and grow our perspectives with other mental health professionals. Given our continual awareness and intentional vision, this leads to tip # 3. Risk growing your services.

Tip #3: Risk growing your services

In the last few short months, because of the pandemic, we have learned how to do therapy online via telemental health. It’s made our services either more challenging, exciting, or somewhere in-between.

Many therapists have felt overwhelming stress and tried to be available to all in need. But to do so is to put ourselves at risk for burnout.

It’s time now to think outside the four walls of our counseling practices. Recently I presented a workshop on “How to Facilitate Group Empathy Using Communologue.”  And I connected with other therapists online.

It’s a challenge to change, of course. But our time is valuable and the needs are great. As a result, it’s so necessary to integrate what you love to do as an added service in your practice. For example, I created a Facebook group for “Vibrantly Authentic Therapists.”

It will amaze you at how much you’ll nurture your own soul while attracting ideal clients. So whether you’re just starting out, or you’re a seasoned therapist, it’s vital that you breathe fresh A.I.R. Awareness, Intentionality, and Risks.

Your next step


How to Manage COVID feelings on Mother’s Day


I’m sure all of us are feeling a range of emotions while in the midst of this pandemic. In addition to that, it’s rather painful to think of how to manage COVID feelings on Mother’s Day. “COVID feelings?” Yes, we might as well categorize our highs and lows as “COVID feelings.”

After all, most of us mental health therapists put labels on everything else. If we can label it, that seems to help us get through it. Or if we can categorize it, then we can bring some order to it. If we can bring order to our COVID feelings, we can then move through them.

In a previous blog article, I mention that Mother’s day  can bring many highs and lows anyway. But it can be especially challenging during COVID19 while in physical distancing mode. It’s another reminder of the hugs we won’t get. As we experience all of our humanity on such a sacred day, there’s three keys of awareness that help us manage those COVID feelings.

Mother's day can be especially challenging during COVID19 while in physical distancing mode. Click To Tweet

Awareness #1 – Feel your COVID feelings

Here’s some common concerns I hear from clients. These phrases go something like this.

I’m afraid that if I start crying, I won’t be able to stop.

I just don’t think about it because I won’t be able to stop the dark feelings.

On the other hand, when the stories and feelings come out of hibernation, there’s relief. I help clients get a sense of emotional grounding while facing what they’ve avoided for years. For many, it’s a huge relief. They have proven to themselves that they are bigger than their emotions. And it’s true, that we all are more than our painful pasts.

Awareness #2 – Name Your COVID feelings

Since the beginning of recorded history, mankind has labeled and categorized everything. After all, God gave Adam the job of naming the animals and giving him dominion over creation. And that’s what sets us apart as human beings.

The message here is that we are bigger than our emotions. We are not anger or depression or anxiety. Rather, our humanity includes emotions that are supposed to be felt. They were not designed to identify us or to rule over us.

We are bigger than our emotions. And they are temporary messengers to our souls. Click To Tweet

On the other hand, they are messengers to our souls. They have purpose. And that’s why it’s vital that we don’t ignore them. In addition, we need to recognize their purpose and allow them to move.

Awareness #3 – Honor Your COVID feelings

In chapter 25 of Beyond Messy Relationships, I use the analogy of emotions as being temporary guests to our souls. They were not meant to be permanent residents. Here’s an excerpt:

Of all the emotions we identify as temporary guests, sadness is the most lingering. Psychologist and researcher Joseph Forgas tells us that mild sadness improves memory, judgment, and motivation. It can help us be more compassionate and reach out to those in need. The longevity of most emotions is ninety seconds. . . .

Again, we must allow all emotions to cycle through our hearts. Our task is to keep them from becoming permanent guests. . . Instead, we need to allow the wisdom those difficult feelings provide. And it’s true that God never wastes any of our pain. Without it, we miss our authentic selves.

Final thoughts for COVID feelings on Mother’s Day

Even though we’re in physical distancing mode. And we will miss the hugs of our mothers, and daughters and sons and family. And of course we’ll feel many of those temporary messengers of our souls. Let’s all raise our awareness of feeling, naming, and honoring our “COVID feelings.” After all, we’re acknowledging our full humanity on such a sacred time as Mother’s Day.

As we feel our COVID emotions, we're acknowledging our full humanity on such a sacred time as Mother's Day. Click To Tweet

Your Next Step:

Now is the time to get two copies of Beyond Messy Relationships. Buy one and get one free to give to your mother.

Unsplash Photo by Hans Vivek 

State of your marriage

How to Know the State of Your Marriage

Having been a counselor for marriages and hearing multitudes of stories, I was curious while in a social setting. When I attended a High School Reunion, there were a handful of couples who had been married over forty years! I was curious about the secret to their success. Of course, I want to keep helping others “how to know the state of your marriage.” Beyond my clinical knowledge and experience, this was a perfect time to ask. It was the best environment outside my counseling office to get insight.

40-year Marriage Testimonies:

“We’ve been through a lot. And we have some major differences. But when we go hiking, all those differences fade. We appreciate each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

“I don’t know why it’s worked for us. I guess we’ve been blessed. My spouse is my best friend.”

Of course, not all long-term marriages show a comfortable partnership. Some couples look worn down and admit they’ve lived like room-mates. In fact, some couples are not living together. They are dying together.

We all go through seasons or years of unhappiness or dysfunction. That’s why I steer away from the term, “happy marriage.” It’s more valuable to work toward a growing marriage. And that was my takeaway after listening to the couples at the reunion.

It's more valuable to work toward a growing marriage rather than a happy marriage. We can all choose to grow through temporary feelings and seasons. Click To Tweet

We can categorize marriage as Dr. John Gottman, does who is world-renowned for his research on marital stability. We’re showing up in our relationships as either the “masters” or the “disasters.” In other words, those who grow beyond their marital messes are the “masters.” Those who get stuck are the “disasters.” Certain behaviors and attitudes put us heading in one direction or the other. You can find more about this in my book, Beyond Messy Relationships. 

Know the State of Your Marriage By What Direction You’re Heading

Remember geometry class? Imagine a horizontal line with arrows on either end. Anyone of us can be an “x” on a continuum line facing either right decisions on one end or wrong decisions on the other. This idea helps us see the fluidity of our choices. We can change our dance (relationship) patterns. Imagine that same horizontal line with an “x” represents our marriages. Are we heading in the direction of the “masters” or the “disasters?” In other words, we can which way we’re heading with the smallest of decisions.

Our lives and relationships are never static even though we feel stuck. Click To Tweet

Know the State of Your Marriage By Adjusting to Perpetual Conflicts

Gottman’s research challenges how therapists help or hinder couples they work with. For example, we shouldn’t focus solely on conflict resolution skills. The reason is that 69% of conflict in our relationships are perpetual. They have no resolve. The couples I spoke with at the reunion validated these findings.

So you could divorce one spouse and marry another. But you will experience a different set of perpetual conflicts. They’re likely to add up to the same percentage as the old marriage. The wisdom here is for couples to learn how to solve the 31% of conflicts that are resolvable. And grow through accepting the rest.

Know The State of Your Marriage By Resolving Resolvable Conflicts

We can learn to grow through, adapt, and even appreciate the remaining perpetual 69%. Unless, of course, part of that 69% dishonors the dignity, value, and worthiness of either spouse.

Those long-term married folks at the High School reunion actually validated the premise of my book. Those who are open and willing to respect differences were clearly among the “masters.”

Your Next Step

Know the state of your marriage. Take the Relationship Stress Quiz 

Feature Photo by Matthew Bennett on Unsplash