How To Transform Regret Into Powerful Life Lessons

I was trying to squeeze too much into my day and said “yes” when I should have said, “not now.” I began feeling regret and anger with myself for missing out. Really, I made the wrong decision. We all know what that feels like. As we face our not-so-good decisions, can know how to transform regret into powerful life lessons.

Some folks say they intend to live with no regrets. And I think, really? Is that even possible?

I don’t believe we can live our entire lives without regrets.

No matter how intentional we are, we all experience regrets. Those of us who admit our regrets can become stuck in sadness with focused attention around helplessness. There’s nothing I can do about it now. Others ignore the regrets because the feelings are too painful.

Instead, it’s important to learn from regrets so we can make necessary changes.

With her care of people through hospice work, Bronnie Ware identified the five regrets of the dying. This list has been in my planner all year.

1. Have the courage to live life true to yourself and not what others expect.

Ancient literature reminds us of how universal fear is to our humanity. I highlighted several references of God’s message to Joshua in my Bible. Joshua was the one to champion the nation of Israel into the promised land. (Old Testament, book of Joshua) There’s several phrases of Be strong and of good courage along with more messages of Do not be afraid.

Notice that a pre-requisite for courage is fear. Let’s face it. We are all fearful at times. I believe fears (or any emotions we experience) are invitations to us from God to grow. Fear and courage are a necessary part of our growth.

2. Don’t work so hard.

We need to honor the God-given design of our bodies. Our brains need sleep, and our bodies need nutrition and exercise. Dr. Dan Seigel has a great diagram of our daily requirement for a healthy mind. Too many of us have stress-related health issues, and strained relationships due to overwork.

3. Express feelings.

Many of us don’t have words to describe how we feel. Or we may be constantly on the go and don’t notice our feelings. When we’re triggered in an instant, we fail to pause and explore what might really be going on. Instead, we medicate with social media or screen time.

4. Stay in touch with friends.

I fall short in this category and must admit I’d never been to any of my high-school reunions. Even though we have years of disconnect from former friends, it’s never too late to fill in that gap.

Not only is it healthy to nurture individual friendships, but it’s important to grow our marriages through couple friends. Recent research indicates friendships with other healthy couples increase happiness and partnership in marriage.

5. Let yourself be happy.

Some of us take ourselves way too seriously. When my husband meets new people, he usually asks, What do you do for fun? It’s amazing how many people just pause and are unsure how to answer. But it’s a great way to connect beyond our titles and what we do for a living. Somehow we learn a lot about a person when they share what they like doing for fun.

 

Remember, don’t let a powerful life lesson pass you by. Face regrets and take these five lessons to heart:

  • Be courageous and true to yourself
  • Relax from work
  • Express your feelings
  • Enjoy friendships
  • Be happy.

Tune in with “Relationships and Regret” 

Relationship

The Secret to a Healthy Relationship Is Not What You Think

The secret to a healthy relationship is not what you think. What do most people say? You guessed it. Communication with a capital “C.” But communication is not the secret to healthy relationships. Click here for audio version. 

Once you know the difference between communication and dialogue you’ll agree. Dialogue is the real secret to a healthy relationship. And it’s not natural.

Dialogue is the real secret to a healthy relationship. And it's not natural. Click To Tweet

Normal communication can easily turn into power/control situations.

If you were a compliant kid growing up, then you may be like me. You’re easily persuaded.

I have no problem buying products online. I’ve listened to webinars and taken more online classes than I can count. Marketers convince us there’s a limited time only, or the price will never be this low again. Persuasion is a powerful communication method.

If you’re naturally strong-willed, you won’t be easily persuaded. Instead, you spend hours of research before purchases. You’re skeptical of marketers and you have no trouble with being assertive.

Because you’re so confident, your conversations can mimic a sales pitch without realizing it. You might even be able to sell and snowball to an Eskimo.

In relationship, one person is great at persuasion while the other is easily influenced. The compliant one buys the “bill of goods” and later, has buyer’s regret. After time, this communication pattern in intimate relationships feel manipulative. Trust is weakened and isolation replaces connection.

Communication patterns feel manipulative when you try to convince the other person. Click To Tweet

Every one of us desire to be heard and understood in our intimate relationships. That’s why we need to know dialogue.

What Relationship Dialogue is not:

Dialogue is not debate.

Some of us know what it’s like to be on a debate team in high school. We’ve all watched political debates. Neither party is open to the other’s viewpoint. Their only purpose is to win the hearers over to their side. One ends up being a winner and the other a loser.

When marital communication is a debate, one spouse loses. Who wants to sleep with a loser? In reality, both lose.

Dialogue is not discussion.

Some of us call arguing “heated discussions.” Both people try to change the other’s mind, or belief, or behavior. Neither one is listening to the other.

Think of the suffix of the word discussion and how it’s similar to concussion. Discussion is to a relationship as a football player is to a head injury.  One person suffers.

What Relationship Dialogue is: 

Dialogue is a form of communication in which two people walk away feeling heard, understood, and validated. It requires skills of listening. Dialogue is two people willing to slow down and hear what the other is saying.

Dialogue is a form of communication in which two people walk away feeling heard, understood, and validated. Click To Tweet

It requires two people willing to bring attitudes of openness, growth and curiosity. They desire to honor the others’ differences.

Dialogue seems to happen naturally early on in a romantic relationship. Both are curious and open with the other. Over time, attitudes change. Dialogue eventually migrates to debate or discussion.

Secrets to a Healthy Relationship 

Whether you’re a master at persuasion or can buy anything online, it’s crucial to learn dialogue. We now realize the secret to a healthy relationship is not communication with a capital “C.”  It’s dialogue which takes a special skill of listening. Dialogue is the superglue that holds us together. Dialogue connects us in our desire to be seen, heard, and understood.

Three Choices in your next step to a Healthy Relationship

  1. Go to my FaceBook page to watch short videos about dialogue.
  2. Answer this question and comment on this post: Are you assertive or easily influenced in your relationship?
  3. Sign up for a free 20 minute consultation to begin learning dialogue skills.

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Professional Counseling

What Kind Of Professional Counseling Do I need?

 

What kind of professional counseling do I need? If I wrote a letter to my younger self, I would say, Don’t hesitate.

Don’t just lolly-gag & wait for change. Make that counseling appointment now. Click To Tweet

We can be so confused about our needs. And even more confused about what kind of professional counseling we need. Now that I’ve been practicing for over a decade, I’m convinced the public needs clarity about who’s who when it comes to professional counseling.

Why it’s important to know about professional counseling

The professional mental health and wellness field can be so mysterious. What do all those initials behind a person’s name mean anyway?

We’ll cover the differences between those in unlicensed professions in another post: life coaching, business coaching, and spiritual direction. For now, let’s address those who are licensed counselors.

Why look for those who are licensed in their field?

It assures us of their training, education, expertise, continuing education, and accountability.

Just as we don’t trust an unlicensed surgeon to do a kidney transplant, we shouldn’t trust an unlicensed counselor with the tender organs of our souls.

Now that may be a dramatic example for some. But would you even want to consider a tooth extraction by an unlicensed dentist?

On the other hand, you may only need your son-in-law to change a light fixture rather than hiring a certified electrician. In that case, we only need a counseling intern, life coach, spiritual director, or a wise friend.

Our relationship and mental health needs can be mysterious. We don’t know whether our issues are like an old light fixture or a decayed tooth. A first appointment with a licensed professional counselor can help you sort that out. Here’s what you need to know.

Don’t assume medication is the only treatment

It’s the high-dollar TV commercials who promote antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication. We automatically go to our primary care physicians or OB/GYN’s even before considering professional counseling.

Most are unaware that talk therapy from a licensed counselor is a better first line of treatment before considering medication. Click To Tweet

When medication is necessary, it’s always wise to combine it with counseling.

Psychotropic medication is just a small portion of treatment. A combination of medication and talk therapy is many times more effective for wellness than medication alone.

Who’s who when it comes to professional counseling? 

Here’s an overview of non-medical professional counselors. Psychiatrists are not on the list because they are medical doctors trained to prescribe psychotropic medications. They rely on non-medically trained professional counselors to help their patients. A few may also counsel their patients.

Here’s another confusing fact. Each state in the United States has their own laws around licensure. Each profession has their own code of ethics. Titles may vary slightly from state to state. For the sake of simplicity, this list pertains to Tennessee.

A basic understanding of professional counseling differences

This is not a comprehensive list. It’s a simple overview of those trained to diagnose and treat mental illness through non-medical therapies. All are required to continue their education. Many have additional certifications in specialized therapies such as Imago therapy, Gottman, EMDR, or Emotion Focused Therapy.

You’ll find the following professions through private practices, agencies, or counseling centers. All of these professions are Master’s degrees or higher. They are trained to diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders through non-medical treatments.

Licensed Professional Counselor with Mental Health Service Provider Status (LPC-MHSP)

Many LPC-MHSP’s focus on individual therapy. Many have additional training in relationship counseling or group therapy.

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)

LMFT’s have a family systems point of view.

Licensed Clinical Social Worker. (LCSW) 

LCSW’s have a broader social and systems perspective.

Licensed Pastoral Counselor

Pastoral counselors generally are ministers, rabbis or, priests with a spiritual focus.

Licensed Clinical Psychologists – (Psy.D) 

Licensed clinical psychologists are the only ones on the list who are rightly called Doctor. They’re also trained trained to administer psychological testing for Attention Deficit Disorder and other diagnosis.

With this clarity, please tell yourself, Don’t just lolly-gag and wait for change. Make that counseling appointment now.  

Your Next Step. . .  

Order an author-signed copy of Judy’s Book, Beyond Messy Relationships

Counselor Support

How To Find The Right Counselor

With a splotchy red face and tears dripping down my cheeks, I had just shared intimate details of my life. An hour later, having used lots of tissue and now less money in my purse I wasn’t going back. The therapist was competent and reputable. But the chemistry wasn’t there for me. It’s important to know how to find the right counselor before your first counseling appointment.

Before you bare your soul to a counselor, it's important to find the right fit for you. Click To Tweet

Some clients feel cheated paying counseling fees at their first session if it’s not a good fit.

Here’s things to consider before you hire your mental health counselor or relationship therapist. Some may be more important to you than others. These items will help you get clarity for the therapist that’s right for you.

Do your research before contacting a licensed professional counselor.

Of course, it’s always helpful to get recommendations from your friends, family, or doctor. But do your own research as well. What may be a good fit for your sister’s marriage, may not be a good fit for yours. Each individual and relationship is different.

Many therapists advertise on Psychology Today, Theravive, or other counseling platforms. Start with a google search in your area. If you’re looking for marriage counseling, just type in marriage counseling in or near your city.

  • Read counselors profiles, specialties, and blog posts. Some even have introductory videos.
  • Find out how long they’ve been in practice.
  • Discover whether they’re “general practitioners” or if they specialize.

Make an initial connection with a counselor through their online presence or profile.

If you’re just too anxious to make that initial phone call, send a short email. You can say something like this:

I’m interested in counseling. Do you offer free consultations? 

Or you can say this:

I’m interested in counseling. Would you please call me at (your phone number) on Monday afternoon? I have a few questions to ask. 

Don’t assume you’re obligated to schedule a counseling appointment with that first connection by phone or email. It’s OK to shop around.

Here’s things to consider at a first encounter with a counselor:

  • How long does it take to receive an email reply? You should hear back within 24 hours.
  • The counselor may not offer free office consultations, but may spend 15 minutes on the phone with you. If so, pay attention to how you feel on the phone with them.
    • Do they sound rushed?
    • Is their voice warm and inviting?
    • Is it fast or slow?
    • Abrupt or calm?

Some counselors choose not to have contact with clients before meeting them at their first appointments. Their assistants may be the only initial connection. Decide if that’s acceptable to you. You are the one who decides what’s best for you. Your preferences matter.

It’s proper and necessary to interview two or three before hiring the right counselor for you.

Whether you’re choosing a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, or a mental health therapist, you’re the one doing the hiring for their expertise. Just as you would hire a contractor or mechanic, mental health professionals are providing you services.

View yourself as a client or patient who is making an informed choice. It’s easy to be intimidated by a person’s title or initials after their name. You are just as important as your provider. They just have issues you don’t know about. We are all human beings worthy of respect, dignity and worth.

Avoid anyone who makes you feel “less than.” Whether you’re struggling with substance addiction or a mood disorder, you’re no less than the doctor or therapist who is treating you.

Don’t leave your first counseling appointment feeling cheated. Save your tears for the right one.

Sign up for a free 20 minute consultation.

Grief

Lessons of Grief From A Clay Cup

Loss can be mysterious and unexpected. In this case, I learned lessons of grief from a clay cup. Click here for audio version. 

It wasn’t just any cup. My 23-year old son who moved out to Seattle two years before gave me this treasured gift. The unglazed belly of the clay cup made my coffee vibrant with flavor. The handle fit my hand perfectly along with indention for my thumb at just the right angle. 

The artisan-crafted clay cup held depth of meaning in ways I didn’t realize.

It was a daily ritual to write in my prayer journal drinking from my clay cup with a lighted candle by my side. While on my front porch rocking chair these tangible items helped me meditate and pray. My heavenly Father and my long-distance son were invisible, yet present. I felt close to both.

At the time, my younger son was getting married and my daughter and granddaughter had just moved across the country.

Adult children moving or getting married is not an easy transition for any mom. Click To Tweet

And then, while in the kitchen, the unexpected happened. I was totally caught off guard. It was like a slow motion movie clip when each frame passed by in focused terror! My beloved cup fell off the crowded countertop and shattered onto the wood floor; gone in an instant. The shock made time stand still.

A nauseous pit in my stomach screamed out. An uncontrollable floodgate poured out of my red splotchy face. My husband picked up the pieces to assess it’s fixability.

Nothing could be done.

My tears wouldn’t stop.

I woke the next morning missing my cup. The uncontrollable tears and gut-wrenching feelings came in waves like an ocean tide. It lingered for several days.

This is crazy, I thought. It was just a clay cup. Why am I reacting like this? What is wrong?

I scheduled a counseling appointment with my therapist.

She encouraged me to make a mosaic out of the shattered pieces. Although I’d never be able to drink out of it, I could make it a piece of art; something new and beautiful. 

My therapist helped me identify the meanings I attached to that clay cup. She helped me gain focus to my loss. I became more aware of what I was really grieving.   

Here’s what I’m learning about grief.

  1. Grief is universal and unique. We all experience loss and we are all affected by it. Loss is not only the death of a loved one. It’s the death of a relationship, a season of life, a dream, or an attachment.
  2. Grief is meant to be felt. Willingness to feel the sadness and cry the tears makes us more whole as human beings. Feeling depth of loss gives us capacity to live and feel fullness of joy. Click To Tweet
  3. Grief is necessary. It tunes us into the value of our relationships. It gives us clarity. It helps us let go and make something beautiful where sorrow existed.
  4. Grief has meaning. When we take time to face our loss and pain, we gain clarity. We appreciate others more. We’re able to hold the preciousness of “now”.

It’s been three years since the initial sting of my shattered cup. Waves of grief settled and joy came back. I can live in the “now” and embrace the emerging adulthood of my children. I enjoy this “empty nest” stage of life with my husband. It feels free and full.

My husband and I make our trips across the country visiting my long-distance children, cherishing the time we have. Tears still flow with our “good-byes.”

I now drink from another clay cup with more awareness. Whether it’s loved ones, relationships, seasons, or dreams; all are meant to transition and grow. Be thankful for now.

Questions to Ponder

What are you learning about grief?

What are things that hold meaning for you?

How has a loss become something new and beautiful?