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

When my husband and I attended his 45th 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 wisdom for my marriage. And I want to help others with “how to know the state of your marriage.” Beyond my clinical knowledge and experience, this was a perfect time to ask. Besides, my husband knew these couples since adolescence. And 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.

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 Marriages.

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.

My husband’s old friends became my new friends while at the high school reunion. Those long-term married folks validated the premise of my book. Those who are open and willing to respect differences were clearly among the “masters.”

Your Next Step

Limited-time Valentine’s Special – Buy One and Get One Free: Author-Signed Copy of Beyond Messy Relationships

Feature Photo by Matthew Bennett on Unsplash

How to Be Your Authentic Self in a Difficult Marriage

Many prospective clients are unsure of whether they need individual or marriage counseling. Some have told me they don’t know themselves within their marriages. It’s a common complaint from those who have been married for decades. I must say, I hear it most from women in the “empty nest” stage of life. As a result, here’s how to be your authentic self in a difficult marriage.

First of all, we need to identify our terms. 1. Difficult marriage and 2. Authentic self.

What is a Difficult Marriage?

There is a difference between “difficult” and “destructive” marriages. In addition, different seasons of marriage will manifest in ways that make us question whether or not we are in a toxic relationship. We question what is normal difficulty verses destructive difficulty.

For example, it’s “normal” for marital satisfaction to decrease within the first year of having a baby. New adjustments and roles are being established. A couple transitions from being husband and wife to mom and dad. They are discovering new roles and identities.

Think of “healthy difficulties” as revealing core values with accompanying ways to grow and grow up. Our thoughts, beliefs, and reasonings are designed to mature. Remaining stuck in an earlier mode of life can groom a marriage to become destructive.

One way to know if you are growing is to ask yourself. “What would I say to my younger self?” If you’re in your 50’s and you still think like a 22 year old, there’s a problem.

Drs. John and Julie Gottman identify four horsemen as predictors of divorce. They are:

  1. Accusation
  2. Defensiveness
  3. Stonewalling
  4. Contempt

Throughout my years of counseling couples, I now identify a fifth horsemen. That is isolation. I describe more about this in my book, “Beyond Messy Relationships.”

Remaining stuck in an earlier mode of life can groom a marriage to become destructive. Click To Tweet

Now, let’s define the “authentic self.”

What is the Authentic Self?

This seems more like a philosophical question with various dimensions. For the sake of this article, let’s think of authenticity as the true self. My conservative Christian upbringing made me think that the self is selfish and needs to die. But I believe the “false self” is the ego-centric selfish part that we need to shed. It includes false beliefs, arrogance, manipulation and a host of other malices.

On the other hand, our authentic self is who God designed us to be. It includes our giftedness and a filling of our souls with forgiveness, love, joy, peace, and patience. And of course, authenticity emerges through our human struggles in ways we can become clear about our dignity, value, and worthiness. We are able to accept both our depravity and dignity and know that we’re deeply loved.

How to Be Your Authentic Self Through Difficulties

Of course, we are on a courageous journey toward our authentic self. As a result, the difficulties in our marriages give us these three necessary ingredients for this first stage of awareness.

Awareness of Perspective

Our brains are designed with “mirror neurons.” Here’s an excerpt from chapter 20 of “Beyond Messy Relationships.”

Our mirror neurons trigger reciprocal interactions in relationships. When we smile at babies, they smile back at us. When others are kind to us, we’re kind to them. If we think negative thoughts without verbalizing, the mirror neurons of others sense the tension. Of course, we can’t read each other’s minds. But we can be aware of how mirror neurons pick up “metacommunications.” Nonverbal messages include body language, muscle tension in the face, gestures, and even dilation in our eyes.

Think of your marriage as a mirror reflecting what’s impossible for you to see on your own. If you and your spouse are flat mirrors to each other, you’re able to respect and love each other in spite of the other’s quirks, irritations, and character flaws. Rather than attitudes of judgement, you’ll reflect the good will of the other. It’s opportunity for growing our character and becoming more aware.

On the other hand, if one spouse reflects a distorted mirror to the other, then we get unrealistic views of ourselves. For example, critical attitudes, put-downs, and shaming give us a concentrated negative view of ourselves. Our authentic self is assaulted and we believe we’re not worthy. Remember the mirrors at amusement parks?

Awareness of Power

No one knows your needs better than you. This includes physical, emotional, spiritual and mental needs. Don’t expect your spouse to do for you what only you can do for yourself. In other words, you are responsible for being your own advocate.

It’s important to emphasis that self care is never selfish. Even if others accuse you of being so. Again, no one can feel your emotions or think your thoughts. We need to let go of unrealistic expectations and people-pleasing “black holes.”

No one knows your needs better than you. . . .Don't expect your spouse to do for you what only you can do for yourself. Click To Tweet

Learn to trust your body and your heart. This is a God-given responsibility. We cannot do for others what only we can do for ourselves. Too many women especially, take on too much.

Awareness of Purpose

When we grow in our perspective and begin to shed the “false self,” our purpose becomes more clear.

Of course, whether your marriage is “difficult” or “destructive,” don’t hesitate to surround yourself with flat mirrored friendships. It may begin with an individual counseling session. Or you may want to confide to a trust-worthy friend.

Whether you’re seeking individual or marriage counseling, keep in mind that your authentic self if worth the journey.

Your Next Steps. . .

Share this article with your spouse or a trusted friend and begin the dialogue

Schedule your free 20 minute consultation

Peace

How To Really Give The Best Simple Presents

As we reflect “peace on earth and goodwill toward men,” I’ve wondered how to really give the best simple presents. There’s three things to consider as we prepare for Christmas. They are ways to honor this sacred time and give the gift of ourselves. Memories and expectations along with our perspectives can interfere with our gift-giving. Loving eye contact along with a prayer for peace enhances the best simple present we can give.

Memories and Expectations of The Best Simple Presents 

Memories of Christmas pasts and expectations of friends and family can be overwhelming. As a child it’s easy to believe Santa comes down the chimney and brings presents. But, as adults we learn to guard ourselves against pain. Our beliefs turn to distrust, negativity, and avoidance where there’s perceived danger. And sometimes, we’re up against not just perceived, but real emotional harm. The wonder of life no longer seems wonderful as we move through relationships.

Let’s remind ourselves of the phrase “good will toward men.” Of course, we interpret “men” as all human kind. In this special season, we celebrate the coming of Christ.  And let’s ask ourselves, what does that really mean?

Perspective Gives Us The Best Simple Presents

What if we could see the childlike soul of the person who holds discomfort in us? We may see a wounded, betrayed, hurt little boy or girl. Can we be open to see the substance of their being and look beyond their manipulation or rejection of us? If so, could we see their good will?  If we could see their pain out of their own unhealed wounds, we could relate with compassion.

Loving Eye Contact Accompanies The Best Simple Presents

It’s not easy to make loving eye contact. Nor is it easy to believe in the goodwill of those who cause us pain. Yet, if we choose to hold onto our childlike faith, we can grow beyond our own woundedness. As a result, we allow the love of Christ and His healing touch on our own lives. We can give the best simple present of ourselves. Our souls are filled when we’re at peace with the life-giving meaning of “goodwill to men.”

An Attitude of Peace Makes The Best Simple Present

This prayer brought tears to my eyes more than once in my reflections of Christmas. May it touch your heart as you celebrate this sacred time!

Peace Prayer

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, union;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console:

To be understood, as to understand;

To be loved, as to love:

For it is in giving that we receive,

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying that we are born to

eternal life.

– attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi

Feature Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash