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Time For An Attitude Check

March 2, 2014

What kind of attitude do you have? Do you think it’s a positive one? I hope so. But what if it’s not? A negative attitude is usually a sign of depression and/or discouragement. In my work, this is a great way to test one’s mood as I share with clients how mood and attitude are connected. Many people will share their belief that they don’t have a negative attitude (an interestingly negative way of looking at it), and yet say and do things that do indeed project doubt and negativity.

One way of checking our attitude is to examine how you feel when someone either asks how you are doing or offers you a compliment. For example, clients may share saying “fine”, but feel truly discouraged or upset about their struggles. Instead of sharing this though, for whatever reason, they suffer in silence. Further, too many share discomfort when paid a compliment. They might say something like “thanks but…fill in the blank (“I could have done better” or think that they are just being nice in saying that to us, etc..). Now these examples do not necessarily mean we have a negative attitude, however, I tell you that you may be projecting doubt or something less than positive.

So what can we do about this? We can certainly use this as a gut-check moment and an opportunity for growth. For example, I might say to take a moment to reflect on why you chose to discount the compliment. Where did this come from? Challenging any self-doubt with reality, positive self-statements (a la “the person told me this because they believe it,” or “well, I am managing well and it is nice to know someone recognized it”).

Now, when someone asks how we are doing and we may be reminded that we are struggling, whether you choose to share or not, let’s take the opportunity to do something about it. Instead of just saying “ok,” and moving on in your mind, let’s operationalize what can be done. Maybe I need to reach out for help. Maybe I need to journal out some of my pain/experience, get counseling, and so forth. The point is I need to address it, which would then get this emotional weight off my plate. Unresolved issues will indeed affect your attitude and addressing them will help.

Building Your Own Treatment Team

February 23, 2014

Too often, I hear how people have no idea who to turn to for support. This is sad and uncomfortable and yet, I am glad to say, fixable. First, there are family and friends. We may have a number of such members available to us, even if we don’t usually reach out. Family and friends want to help us and can be just the emotional support we may need in the moment. But whether you have this support available to you or not, there is much more to tap into.

If you are struggling, and not going to a therapist, I challenge you to consider it. It is not a place where you are judged, but rather a place where you can go and truly open up, which many of us wont do. With family and friends, we fear we may burden or hurt them with our pain. You don’t have to worry about this happening with a therapist. It is our job to support you through the most difficult of struggles. Oh! But there are even more sources of support.

Do you have a good doctor? Most of my clients do not see a regular doctor. Some don’t have insurance but most will say they see whichever doctor is available when they call in or that they may just go to an urgent care to be seen. That’s okay in a pinch but a good doctor is one who knows you, spends time listening to your concerns and questions and, bottom line, has a good sense of your every day condition. Let me take that further. A good doctor is one who works alongside me to function as a team to best help you.

Clients seem confused though when I ask if their doctor is aware of their emotional pains. “Why would my doctor need to know this Stuart?” Because, I say, the doctor can then better assess what you may be experiencing, offer their own insight into how our mood can affect our bodies, as well as offer other tools and techniques. Mood disorders, issues with anxiety, and many other issues, are within your doctor’s scope of practice and to leave them out of the process does not make sense to me. They can also refer you to a psychiatrist if concerned about deeper issues. My point here is that there are many different forms of support; I want you to have as many as you need.

Taking Command of Your Life

January 19, 2014

How many of us can honestly say that everything we do is done solely for ourselves?  What I mean is that when I ask clients about their purpose, in doing whatever it is they are doing in life, I would usually hear things like “Well I need to this because so and so wants it” or “it is expected of me.”  Ok.  Let me ask you this.  Are you truly excited about it or, again, are these other’s “needs” instead of those of others?  And, if so, what will happen next?  Are you always going to focus on what you should do?  I say what about your needs?

Pleasing others should not mean sacrificing you.  If, for example, you are going into some type of job or field of study because friends or family think it’s important, then I hope you agree….totally agree.  If you are not truly wanting to go in this direction, then I say you will not be happy and probably end up resentful.  Now, we can appreciate other’s motivation, especially if it is to see you successful in life.  We can use that support and energy in the direction we want to go.  If this is not what we want, it is okay to say to them “thank you.  I know you want the best for me.  I am not quite sure I’d like that, and I have to research it a little more”.  Remember this, rarely in life is an answer needed that exact moment (a la if you don’t agree with them and start on the path they suggest in the moment, it might be a catastrophe).

When I have such energy from others, I can indeed use this to take time to reflect more on the idea, as well as others that might fit for me.  It may be scary, and we may want to resist even thinking about it.  But I say direct that energy and use that moment to take control of your future.  Resist the urge to change the subject in your mind.  Stay with the thought a little longer.

It does not matter who is discussing ideas with us or what the idea is (where you may live, travel, philosophies you could support, etc.), the fact remains, you are the one who will deal with consequences of your decision.  No one else will experience this in the same way you will.  Sure.  This can be disappointment to someone else, but you have to decide where your life will go.  Good Luck.


Connecting with Others

January 6, 2014

Ever seen one of those movies or TV shows where the moment changes and the emotionally distant father hugs his son and the tears flow? Oh! The good feelings we then experience from these touching moments.  Ah! But this is not just an opportunity for us to feel for that father and son but for also for each of us to tap into any unresolved issues we may be experiencing. Now I say this because I believe we all have painful experiences that we may stuff deep inside and try not to think about.

Those TV moments allow our own unresolved thoughts and feelings to be experienced, if we are willing to take a risk and face them.  By this, I mean to sit with the thoughts and wonder for a moment how the result has come to be or what we or they did to lead us to this pain.  We can also sit with the feelings, pain or anger, for example, and we were affected by the event.    We don’t have to come up with answers in that moment, but rather just be OK with the feelings coming up.  Own them and give them their due by feeling them.

The next step might be to talk about this experience. It can be with a friend or family member, anyone who can just listen and be there for support.  You can write out what you are experiencing as yet another way to get the pain out.  The goal here is to release some of the hold these experiences have on us as well as only making it easier for next time when something has been stirred up inside of us.

Going further, what if we could then begin to connect with our friend and loved one’s more deeply, meaning be more willing to share emotions with them—and I don’t just mean anger.  This means taking a risk and trusting special others with our feelings.  Yes.  We could be hurt.  I am not saying to do this with the world but rather those special few in our lives we may wish to be closer to.  You wouldn’t have to tell them everything; just start with something.  How do they respond?  They may be surprised and even not know how to initially respond.  They may also share something back and take a risk themselves.  Wonderful.  This is a start.  It has to start somewhere.  Good luck.

Holiday Hopes

January 3, 2012

“I don’t need to buy anything.  I have everything I need.”  I heard this just today and thought, “wow!”  How can I get to this place too?”  Sadly though, most of us have an ongoing list of things we either want or say we need.  If someone else has something that looks good, we tend to want that too.  Ok.  Not everything but, face it, would you really want/need it if it was not in front of your face all the time?  For the Holidays, I know I want more as well.  I do try and ask myself, “am I really going to use this,” as maybe even I do a time or two and then it sits collecting dust.

I realize it may be cliché, but I would like world peace, or at least moving closer in that direction.  I want a world where one is free to believe (in whatever) and not be judged for it.  I would like to be even closer to my family and will try harder to not let the small things get in the way of this.  Sweating the small stuff – do take a look at your own daily grind and see what may be getting in the way of your happiness.  I tell you there is too much that may be packed in there.

I would like my own little guys to appreciate what they have and hope they know how much we all love them.  5 more minutes a day.  Imagine just adding 5 minutes a day to being with them, playing a game, reading a book, or whatever.  The same goes true for friends I keep saying I need to call.  Don’t put off joy and connectedness in your life.  We all need it and I want it for you.  How many times have you put off a quick call or other way to connect?  Be there for your loved-ones.  Show them your love and attention.  Happy New Year!!

Reflecting on the Wonder of 2011

December 31, 2011

I have heard some wonderful ideas for 2012 New Year’s Resolutions.  Quite frankly though, I do not want to just push aside 2011 and the good that has come with it. Yes.  I’m sure there are a few things I’d like to forget but there are too many positives as well.  Another year of love and support from the wonderful people in my life is definitely not something I want to forget. And let’s not forget accomplishments in our lives.

Being able to help those through some stressful times is another plus for me to remember.  What about you?  If you or your significant other have a job, count yourself as blessed, as many do not and are in dire straights.  If you have been able to help someone in need (either monetarily or in effort), I hope that joy stays with you too.  If you acheived a personal or professional goal, don’t be too quick to jump ahead either.

Please take time to reflect on your own personal joys from this past year and remind yourself of your value and worth.  I like focusing on how to make things better, how I can grow and best move forward.  When we make these things happen though, we need to appreciate them and take our bow.  Thank you!


Continuing the Holiday Spirit

December 26, 2011

Christmas maybe over but you dont have to lose the holiday spirit. That magical time of the holidays does not have to end even though christmas has passed. What if you hold all of those wonderful feelings and start each day by remembering all those neat feelings? Imagine starting each day with tht wonderful jolt of love. A quick serge of hope and joy. How good will that feel? I get excited just thinking about it. In reality, each day really start the same. It starts with the mind set that you put forward. If you wake up with positive thoughts and hopes you are more likely to see all the good that will come up in your day. Think about it. Its like tracing an outline of how you want your day to be. If, however, you start your day with doubts or frustrations of what is unresolved orpressures that you have thrust on yourself, your day may start down the wrong path.

You really do have so much control in your life. I know we can look at a particular day or time frame and feel sad that it has passed. I also know that I can hold as many of those good thoughts and feelings about that recent day and continue to feel the emotional dividends my life’s events bring me. I love what I do and the special people in my life and all of this bring me wonder beyond belief. What about you? I know there are a lot of neat things fo r you even through the most difficult times. I want to encourage you to capture the positives you’ve experienced and hold them in your heart.

What the season truly brings

December 9, 2011

For me, this time of year is the most special.  As a therapist, I have seen how our hearts are softer and I have had the pleasure and joy of seeing many a relationship heal.  I cannot begin to share with you how special these moments are for me as I know they are for all involved.  It truly is a magical thing.
Too many of us have people in our lives that, for whatever reason, we still keep at arm’s length.  Why?  Because they have hurt us in some way I believe.  I know there may be someone in your life that harmed you extensively and irrevocably.  Ok.  Yet there may also be others that you had a falling-out with and yet, as you may think about it, wonder why the result of ending that relationship even came to be — meaning that we come to the conclusion that the issue may not such a big deal anymore.
I say to you that it does not have to remain that way.  Don’t let pride get in the way.  Reach out to that person.  Acknowledge and take responsibility for any of your actions that have effected the relationship. I can imagine you may still feel hurt and even hesitant about reaching out.  Among other things, this will lighten your emotional load.  This is also how we can move forward in life and I want that for you.  Be true to yourself and grow as a person.  Good luck and Happy Holidays!!

Exorcising our Demons

October 30, 2011

Every one of us has things we worry about or that frustrate us.  These are stressors and, whether big or small, eat up space within our minds and bodies.  Now, it can be easy to discount how these thoughts can bother us with statements like “I don’t think about it every day,” or “I can stop the thoughts when I need to.”  The reality though is that each one of these pains or unresolved issues, that our mind continues to dredge-up, is keeping negative energy within us.  Imagine each and every unresolved thought like puss that is stuck inside your body and in need of purging.

Now if you think you can try and ignore the thoughts, or experience the feelings, and it will somehow go away, you are sadly mistaken; it doesn’t work this way.  We need to face them.  We need to release the hold the issues may have on us.  When we talk about it, how it affects us, and what we may want to do next, we are best able to take that next step.  If this involves someone who may have said or done something and we were hurt, by taking time to reflect on what happened, talk it out with a friend, loved-one or even in counseling, we may best be able to come back to the person and discuss it.  In fact, we will probably be calmer and in a better personal space to get your wants and needs met in the conversation.

Another way to address the things that are on our minds is to write them out.  Here, we can be as angry or hurt (or whatever) as we need to be without attacking anyone or anything.  From what is then jotted down, you can calmly take kernels from the writing to later address with the person you we may choose.

Whatever appropriate way you want to soothe the thougths or pain is ok.  These are only a few of the ways we can assertively exorcise the demons that make-up our angst.

Choosing the Right Therapist for you

October 23, 2011

Years ago, the idea of going to therapy would bring up a lot of anxiety for people.  “What will people think if I see a therapist?  What does it say about me if I can’t handle things myself?”  Questions like these actually cause us undue stress.  My fear is that many still get bugged down by these same questions.  Life is not about what other people think of you.  Your interests, hopes, and dreams are what matter.  You are going to get stuck sometimes; a good therapist can help you through.

So what am I looking for in a good therapist?  Some people have heard about specific theories that they think might work for them.  For example, some know that a cognitive-behavioral approach is good for challenging patterns and behaviors without getting too deep into the emotional component.  Similarly, many have heard of the work of Freud, where clients were seen more as patients and would lie on the couch and talk about deep-seeded issues like with your mother.  These days, there are hundreds of clinical theories that therapists may practice.  If you have enough insight about a theory or motivation to experience a certain one then so be it.  Personally, I want someone I can connect with.  Of course, I hope for insight and experience, as well as I want to know that the therapist has my best interest at heart.

The journey might be uncomfortable.  Honestly, a little discomfort  means we are digging into the emotional dirt we need  to be in.  When someone comes in, I expect there is a presenting problem that I believe will stem from the past.  This is valuable for me to explore with clients and helping them truly understand the issue. As you consider therapy for yourself, feel free to research the therapist on-line and call to ask questions.  A dedicated therapist will take the time to be there.

Stuart Kaplowitz

Marriage and Family Therapist

Chino & Chino Hills