#8 Lifeskills - Vision

These lifeskills are based on an article in Psychology Today, “Lessons You Won’t Learn in School” by Jena Pincott. 

Today’s lifeskill is about having a vision and how to take the steps to get there when your interest falters.

Let’s go back a few years in your life. I assume that you have been on at least one fun field trip during your school days. If not, maybe there was a vacation that you looked forward to or a week at camp. At the very least we can say that our birthday is a potentially great day, right? It may be easiest to think about a time when you were younger because as we get older there are all sorts of tasks that we have to complete before any big day and that can suck the life out of us.

Let’s try to pick a time when you were young. Get a feel for whatever that day was. How old were you? What was the big event that was going to happen the next morning? What did your bedroom look like? What did your pajamas look like? What was your outfit going to be for the next day? Going to sleep the night before the big event - was it hard to fall asleep? Were you awake with excitement? Now compare it to a normal, boring winter day and you have school the next day. You hate all of your clothes and your friends have been rude lately. You aren’t likely to want to get up early and spring into the car or bus and get to school. BUT on the morning of a big day you are probably up and at ‘em before the sun comes up. Ahhh that enthusiasm and energy! If only we could harness that power! What if we could?

The steps may look a little differently today than when you were a child but wanting to do something “from pure interest” and “not out of necessity” is called “intrinsic motivation”. That drive from deep inside to get you motivated to do what you need to do. Even if that is waking up at 4:30 a.m. to go on that field trip, as opposed to facing an Algebra test. 

What if you gave some thought to a vision you have for this season of your life? It can be a literal season - this Summer, Fall, Winter, or Spring. Maybe it’s a new season where your kids are going to preschool, middle school, high school or college. On the other hand, you may have experienced a loss and your life has changed in ways you never wanted. What do you want your life to look like? What do you want to do? Stop doing? Start? Change? 

Ask yourself: “_________ (insert your name), what it is you NEED right now?” If I could wave my magic wand, what would you wish for? Is it something you think you could get if you worked for it? 

The author of this article, Jena, reminds us that “second-person” self talk is super effective for encouraging ourselves. Remember from a previous podcast/blog - just saying out loud, “Pam, you can do this.” can trick my brain into thinking it is my biggest fan encouraging me. Try saying something similar to yourself out loud. 

Let me insert here that sometimes we need to stop doing activities. Maybe you need to insert a nap in your day. I can’t tell you how many of my clients have renewed their energy and outlook simply by resting more. 

Jena then suggests starting a new habit and carving out the time it would take to achieve your goal. Want to knit? You are going to need to buy some yarn and a needle and either read a how-to book, watch a YouTube video or sign up for a class in order to learn. I’m pretty sure you can’t just wing it and end up with a knitted blanket on your lap. If you can, let me know because I want one of those chunky knitted blankets. Do you want to learn to play the piano? What if you dedicated an hour a week to doing that? Want to feel less stiff? Would you be willing to get up a little earlier and exercise? 

The real point of this vision is determining what it is your heart wants to do and then doing it. You will be so excited that you are doing something that you enjoy that you will be motivated internally and you won’t notice the pain of any sort of sacrifice you have to make. 

Here’s the sad truth. Nothing is obtained without some sort of effort. You’ve never come home to a clean kitchen unless you did the work to get it clean before you left home (unless you paid a house cleaner). Do you see how this world works? It’s in a constant state of decline unless we do something to counter that. You’re 5 minutes older than you were when you started reading this blog. Where do you want to be in the next 5 minutes! You can do it! 

If you need some help sorting through a vision in your life or getting over obstacles in your way, get in touch with me and let’s work together.


#7 Lifeskills - Flexibility

These lifeskills are based on an article in Psychology Today, “Lessons You Won’t Learn in School” by Jena Pincott. 

Do you prefer predictability and routine? Have you ever made a decision based on all the facts and then are smacked in the face with a detour, new information or news that everything changed? How frustrating that can be! For some it can be a very emotional and anxiety producing time. 

Have you ever gotten comfortable with a smart phone and then you either got a new version of the same phone or a drastic update? How about when you learned every keystroke to a computer program and then they came out with the 2.0 or 12.0 version and it looked completely different? Start yanking the hair out of your head! 

The older we get, the less flexible we become. I’m not talking about our spine (although that can be true also!) but in our brain. You may think, “Ugh WHY do they change everything?? What was wrong with the old way??” The younger you are the more resilient you may be to those changes. You may think, “Oooh cool - something new. Let me see how to figure this out!” 

Researchers have found that when we learn something, we can then become boxed in by that knowledge. New information, or new ways to do something, that rubs against what we already know can be harder to wrap our brains around. As we get older, our mental brain cells do not adapt as well. Those cells may prefer being efficient. Who doesn’t love being talented or an expert in an area? Beware of becoming stale and out of date. The good news is that “cognitive flexibility” can be learned if we are willing to exercise those little precious brain cells. 

I unexpectedly experienced a brain cell flexibility experiment just a few weeks ago on a rainy, cold winter day. What’s a fun thing to do on a day like that, besides napping? Netflix. Mari Kondo is the star of the latest wildly popular documentary on getting your home tidy and efficient. She is the cutest woman you’ve ever seen and she is a master at reducing clutter. 

I’ve been folding shirts and underwear for many years. Sadly. Mari showed her clients, that were falling apart under the weight of their messy houses, how to fold their underwear in a new, space saving way. I have heard from friends that they could care less about a new way to handle this drudgery! I was inspired on Mari’s intriguing folding “KonMari” method. It goes something like this - fold it this way, then that way, then another way and voila. What’s that? Huh? Was that an origami she made? Rewind!

I attempted this trickery. My husband came home and opened his underwear drawer and asked, “Why are my underwear arranged into little packets??” I experienced something new and fun that resulted in the best looking interior drawers you have ever seen. It “sparked joy in me” as Mari would say. 

So, truthfully, they may not be THE best interior drawers but they are better than they were. A warning about learning something new - do not assume you are going to do it once and become an expert. Psychologist Alison Gopnik said that “curiosity should prevail over mastery”. I had nothing to lose by trying out the KonMari method. What’s the worst that could have happened if my folding method went awry? I would have just thrown the underwear back in the drawer like I had been doing. They don’t even really get wrinkly in the drawer. I’ve never had to iron underwear. 

The inspiring part about learning this folding method was when I pressed on with my practicing and had about 10 pairs of shirts lined up in a drawer (in color coded fashion no less). I felt like how the employees at Victoria Secret must feel when they open those drawers with all of those bras lined up. Like a glorious champ! 

When you learn and try something new you may find yourself feeling good about yourself. That then sparks more energy that you can apply to another area of your life. It’s a pretty incredible feeling. 

Where are you feeling kind of stiff in your life? Where do you need a little stretching and an increase in your flexibility? Today might be your day to expand your thinking or your skills. You can do it! 






#6 Lifeskills - I’m Free to Be Me!

These lifeskills are based on an article in Psychology Today, “Lessons You Won’t Learn in School” by Jena Pincott. 

Today’s lifeskill is maintaining your values despite other’s expectations of you. The author gives an example of someone that is expected to take over the family business but the person really desires to join the Peace Corps. How do they decide which to do? 

Organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich wrote that this is a “tug of war” between your self awareness and what others expect of you. She wrote that you are in control. I know it may not feel like you are in control during those times! We can glean some direction from others that have successfully navigated these waters. 

One key is having high self awareness. Knowing yourself. Do you know what your desires and passions are?

Sitting down and brainstorming simple words/answers to this question can be easier than you think. What gets you passionate? What would you work for - for free (hypothetically)? What do you dislike? 

If we use the example of the person trying to make this family business or volunteer decision - what do you think would be desirable about the Peace Corps? Adventure. Helping others. Excitement. 

What might be some drawbacks to working for a family business? Feeling constricted by family and rules. Routine. Boring. 

If you can pinpoint the values you have and the qualities of life that you want and do not want, you can narrow down the path of your life. 

Once you are aware of these things, then you can feel the “authenticity and integrity” in yourself. It just feels true and right to embrace those values or characteristics of the life you want. Eurich discovered that those that know what they want to do may ask for feedback from others but they are very choosy about who they talk to. They choose someone they trust. They do not ask everyone they know. I think that seeking someone that you feel is wise, unbiased and open to possibilities is a good choice. 

Since you are going out on a limb and asking yourself these questions, I will use myself as an example. Obviously I am a counselor and I arrived here after many years of making every attempt to trying to be true to myself and my values. I have a family and that inherently requires a good bit of sacrifice of self. I haven’t always gotten to do what I want to do but my value of family was served well. When I considered what I love to do, helping others was high on my list. Having real, honest, vulnerable conversations with others really makes me feel like I am living. I am not in an office by myself crunching numbers. I would literally wilt away if I was an Accountant (God bless them!). I am not managing 100 people on a daily basis. I like peace and calm. Do you see that some of these “values” I have could fall under the category of skills, preferences, and desires but it all fits into who I am and how I was made and what my purpose is.

Now back to you!

What you want to avoid is trying to be a people pleaser. Overly caring about how others think about you or your life choices may not end well for you. They may not care or even be aware of how uniquely made you are or what your skills and gifts are. What if you have a mission to accomplish but the opinions or fears of others are holding you back? That would be tragic. 

Ask your self some “what” questions. What do I want to do? What do I not want to do? What do I need to learn in order to figure out what to do next?

Stay true to yourself. Consider right now how it would feel to be free to be you! You won’t regret being your authentic self. 




#5 Lifeskills - Feedback?

I am having difficulty posting podcasts. Something is wrong with my formatting. Until I am able to figure it out, I will post this modified transcript of “The Pert Plan” podcast. :)

Previously we focused on the #1 lifeskill - Understanding that everything that happens to you is not always about you. These lifeskills are based on an article in Psychology Today, “Lessons You Won’t Learn in School” by Jena Pincott. 

The #2 lifeskill was “Focusing on other people without dwelling on how they view you.”

The 3rd lifeskill was “Realizing that you don’t have to act the way you feel.” even when you feel your feelings are just all over your face. Using the skill of self-distancing. 

The 4th lifeskill was “reframing it” where we see our short comings and look at them in a new light, or in a new frame, and see your mistakes as growth opportunities

Today’s lifeskill is about soliciting honest feedback from others. 

Organizational Psychologist Tasha Eurich wrote that people believe they are self-aware but few people actually are aware of how others perceive them. She wrote that there are internal and external forms of self-awareness. Internal is “how we see ourselves and our own values and passions” and external is “how others view us”. 

Jena Pincott wrote that “if we knew how others perceived us, we wouldn’t be blindsided by criticism or interactions that go awry for no apparent reason.” She wrote that people that are high in internal awareness don’t necessarily have high external self-awareness. 

It’s hard to know how others see us, isn’t it? It can take a lifetime to put 2 and 2 together and add it up to a vision of what you appear to be to others. You probably naturally take in people’s comments, or lack of comments, and swirl them around in your head. Maybe someone you met at an event tells you goodbye and says, “It was sooo nice to meet you. I really enjoyed talking to you about blah blah blah.” You may think, “She must have thought I was nice and could carry on a conversation.” But what if you met someone, the conversation was awkward and they never even told you goodbye. 

What are your thoughts then? Do you think less of yourself or less of them? I certainly can’t give my opinion on what might have gone down in that situation but every interaction we have with people probably gives us some insight into how we are perceived. 

If you are always getting rude remarks from everyone you meet, maybe you are interacting with people in a way that brings out the negative in them. Are you putting out negativity? 

You could be running into people and they are saying “Hey! How are you?” all the time. My sister says she just cannot bear going to the Publix grocery store sometimes because all the employees are sooo nice. I wonder if her smile and friendly demeanor are attracting that from others. Or maybe it is just that the Publix employees ARE really nice. 

If you are wondering how others perceive you and really want to improve your external self-awareness, this lifeskill could help - it’s soliciting honest feedback from others. Does that sound scary? This step is going to take a fair amount of humility and vulnerability. Jena and Eurich suggest that you find up to five “loving critics” and ask them a few questions. 

“What am I doing that I should keep doing? 

What should I stop doing? 

What about me annoys you?” 

These questions will reveal to you some strengths and weaknesses in your interactions with others. 

Being married is a workshop of feedback. In my own marriage sometimes I think, “Stop with the feedback. I KNOW I am being grumpy!” Anybody with me on this? Marriage can definitely bring awareness to your blind spots in self awareness but hopefully you can take the good with the bad and use it all to become a more aware and well rounded person. 

The benefit of feedback from others is that there may be things you need to change about yourself. You may also get feedback of things that you never really gave yourself credit for. Maybe someone sees you as a very giving and sacrificial person and you never saw that side of yourself. Or maybe you talk and never listen to others. You might need to zip your lips a little bit more often. 

Once you get feedback from others, take the time to process it. Write what they said down and then try to be honest with yourself and see if there is any evidence to support their comments. If so, you have a choice to either foster the good or alter the bad. 

Are you willing to take the steps to getting feedback from some loving friends or co-workers? I think it is a very brave step to take but maybe it will be enlightening. Try it. Let me know how it goes!



I'm Moving Offices...again

I have moved offices more times in the past year than I can count. Ok, well I do have at least 3 fingers so I technically can count the number of times.  I admit, moving 3 times feels a bit excessive. I’m not a flighty or indecisive person but I may appear to be that way if you base it on my moving history. Actually I really take my time making final decisions. I sleep on it, make a pros and cons list, seek wise guidance from others, listen to my intuition and pray about it. 

The good news is that I hope this will be the last time I move Pam Litchford Counseling! I am giddy with excitement that I am moving to 2917-B Millwood Avenue in Columbia, SC. It’s not far from Devine Street and Dreher High School. A fellow counselor invited me to rent a remodeled space alongside her. It has a lovely lobby, abundant parking and no stairs to climb. There is also a cool mural on the building next to me that I will get to enjoy. 

I feel a little bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. My first office space was just a little too small and not enough privacy. My second office space was just a little bit too big and too quiet. Sometimes when I meet with couples for counseling, we get a little loud. This office will be just enough space and the walls are insulated for counselors to ensure privacy. Yay! 

The office I have just moved out of is a historic building that has fabulous exposed brick walls and wide plank hardwood floors. It’s heavenly. It feels like my living room, but even better. It also has some friendly neighbors but I often go days without having any sort of a conversation with anybody other than my precious clients. I cannot pass up being around other people. I found myself telling my friends that I would never leave that amazing office – except and unless I could find somewhere where there are other counselors to be around. 

Often times we make plans and then something changes. I think we need to be flexible in our plans. I am the type where I would loveeee a plan that comes to fruition and stays just the way I planned it. I also like a Plan B and C. Just in case! I still strive to increase my flexibility and reduce the anxiety that can come from a sudden change. I’m not “there” yet but I’m working on it! I’m definitely a girl scout at heart – prepared for anything – and carry around an ample sized purse that is similar to Mary Poppin’s bag. You never know when you might need some hydrocortisone cream and a bobby pin. 

So many events in my life have not gone according to plan. I’ve had to learn to breathe through the uncomfortableness and pain of that reality. Probably all of us can benefit from increasing our tolerance with distress. I definitely recommend a few deep breaths in through the nose to get the body’s stress reactions to calm down. Listen to one of my podcasts. At the end of each one I do a quick guided breathing session for you. There is so much power in deep breathing and letting things go (even if just for a few minutes)! 

Come see me at my new location. I hope that I will be here forever but nobody know the future so I am going to enjoy each day. I hope you do the same with wherever you are in your life. Sometimes we need to make changes and sometimes we need to be thankful for where we are. 

I Feel Pretty

Is this something you ever think or say about yourself?

Try it…say “I. Feel. Pretty.” How did that feel? Like an assignment? Fake? Not true?

Try it again. Say “I feel pretty.” Did it feel less fake? 

Some people easily say and believe they are pretty. Good for them! I would rather be near someone that feels super confident about themselves than see someone with low self esteem. Nobody likes to be around someone that is self absorbed and arrogant about their looks but do you get what I am saying? It’s hard to boost someone’s self esteem when they truly have formed their beliefs about how inadequate they are. 

This blog topic was spurred on by my visit to Publix on a Friday afternoon. I had not rented a Redbox movie in a long time. I slowed my buggy down to see what new movies I had been missing out on. I had a couple of hours before my family was going to be home so I decided to enjoy some much needed self care time and get a chick flick, along with another family movie. I popped the movie “I Feel Pretty” into the DVD player. The featured actress is Amy Schumer. I think she is funny but I also have seen her in movies where I wish I could edit a lot of the language and tone down the crud humor and nudity. I was aware that I really knew nothing about this movie other than I think she hits her head and wakes up believing she is beautiful. 

I was hoping it was not raunchy and thankfully it was not too bad. The movie is PG-13 and there may have been a few cuss words but I don’t really recall. I ended up pausing the play button many times due to various interruptions. I am not reviewing this film so give me some wiggle room on my recollection of the movie. There was no nudity (maybe a hint of it a couple of times). I don’t want to analyze this movie at all but what I was left with were thoughts on the power of our thoughts. 

Amy’s character, Renee, must feel she is a plus sized gal (although she is comparing herself to super skinny models).  When she hits her head in a funny scene at a gym, she then sees herself as the most beautiful woman in the world. The viewer does not get to see her view of herself (and neither do the other characters) but the transformation in her words and actions are incredible. She walks around – or sashays around – with her own soundtrack playing in her head. She is confident, encouraging to others and her energy is expansive. It made me happy to see her making positive assumptions about the actions of others. I won’t give away any scenes in the movie but I think it is worth watching. 

At the end of the movie Renee realizes that there weren’t really any physical changes but that her entire transformation was based on what she thought she was seeing in her body. She thought she was pretty and then she acted pretty. When that time period was over, she thought she was ugly and she retreated back into her shell of low self esteem. It was so sad to watch. She ends up giving an encouraging speech at the end and I should have written down what she said but it was supper time and I had to turn it off. 

What I was left with was a feeling of joy. Whatever you look like to others, whatever you don’t like about your face or your body – don’t focus on it. Act like you are a model and your brain will begin to form new neural pathways and you may begin to believe you are pretty! Others will see that confidence and they may relish in your positive vibes and words to them, which may transform how they feel. Our thoughts are so powerful. If your thoughts are dragging you down today then get to a mirror and tell yourself, “I feel pretty.”! Then go out and live your life because not matter what, you are wonderfully and beautifully made. 

My Feelings Are All Over My Face (modified transcript of #3 Lifeskills podcast)

Joke from quickfunnyjokes.com: 

Q: How do hens cheer for their team? 

A: They egg them on!

Welcome to the 3rd lifeskill. Let’s review: 

We focused on the #1 lifeskill - Understanding that everything that happens to you is not always about you. These lifeskills are based on an article in Psychology Today, “Lessons You Won’t Learn in School” by Jena Pincott. 

Our last lifeskill - #2 lifeskill was “Focusing on other people without dwelling on how they view you.”

This lifeskill is “Realizing that you don’t have to act the way you feel.” 

Do you just feel like sometimes your feelings are just all over your face? I have fair skin. When I get embarrassed or hot, you can literally see the red on my face. I can’t cover it up. As hard as I try, it is probably just going to make any extra attention or focus on it just worse! This lifeskill goes a little deeper than that though. 

You’ve probably felt sad, mad, or glad before, right? Ever felt anxious or depressed? Sometimes people’s feelings are just clearly written on their face. You might say, “Gosh - you look happy!” as they are smiling from one ear to the next. Or if they are sad you may be able to read it in their body language and face. 

I want people to be authentic and genuine but sometimes we just have to fake it ’til we make it. The good news is that you are not transparent. 

As much as I have been accused of being able to read my client’s minds - I can’t. Sometimes I totally get it wrong about what my client is feeling. Some of my most anxious clients appear to be totally together. 

I don’t want you to really fake how you are feeling, but let’s be frank. We all know someone that their world is your world. Whatever they are feeling - they put those feelings all over the place. 

We all need to exert a little bit of self regulation. Right? There are times when you need to just keep it together for the sake of yourself and others. 

Parents might be a good example. You don’t tell your small children all of your problems do you? You don’t burden them with the stress of paying the mortgage or the insurance, do you? Save that for when they are about to go on their own and you need to teach them some financial skills. You know it’s not helpful to them when they are young to give them burdens that are not theirs. 

It’s that same skill you can use today. You got in a fight with your boyfriend. Does the whole world need to know that you are mad or sad? No. Do you need someone to talk to about it? Of course. 

But back to the lifeskill - you do not have to act the way you feel. If you can pull it together, according to the author Jena, you can preserve your dignity, your privacy and your self respect. 

Nelly Neighbor down the street doesn’t need to read your feelings all over your face when she sees you at the grocery store. You’re not being fake when you say “Hello” and keep moving along. You’re just keeping it together for both of your sakes. 

So, how do you do this? Keeping it together and not letting your personal feelings show all over your face? 

I can’t help you with the blushing but the skill of “self distancing” is one way to regulate your self. Reflect on your feeling from another person’s point of view. Act as if you have 2 minds. One is looking at your situation from a distance and the other mind is you - the one suffering. This distanced mind can either write out his/her thoughts or say it out loud or even think it. 

Let me give an example. Talk about going back in history here. I was at Myrtle Beach in middle school with a friend’s family. I don’t even know who all I was walking with but there was a group of us walking down “The Strand” - the happening place to see and be seen. I was just taking all the sights in. What I didn’t take in was the huge crack in the sidewalk where the adjacent sidewalk stuck up in the air. I totally tripped over it and landed on my knees and my arms caught my face from hitting the pavement too. I jumped up and realized that because I was at the back of the group - nobody saw me! 

Whew! Until I heard a much older guy yell at me from the car that was cruising by. He said, “That’s ok sweetheart, just get up and try again!” OH. Em. G. Talk about just wanting to die. Everyone in my group turned around to see who he was yelling at and there I was - blushing. (Remember last week when I said we don’t always have a spotlight on us…well this was an exception.)

Ok, so back to why I am telling this story. At some point my “other mind” said, “Pam - that sucks. Not only is your knee banged up but some guy saw you and now half the street knows you are a klutz. But - who cares? You don’t even know these people and your friends are going to be friends with you no matter what. Just get up and shake it off.” 

I was then able to think a little more clearly and rationally. That helped me to have some control over how I acted the rest of the night. 

Jena even wrote that if you can say your name while using the thoughts or words of this other self or mind, it helps. It’s like having a friend talk to you. You can look at yourself in the mirror and say, “So, Pam, you have a zit. Yep, it’s a big one. We can cover it. And even if we can’t, it’s fine. We’ll get through it. That zit does not define you.” 

This compassionate but firm self talk can help you shift your “mood and behavior”. Try it - it can definitely help! 

Jena wrote that according to Ethan Cross, the director of the Emotion and Self Control Lab at the University of Michigan - “the more emotionally intense the feeling in the moment, the better self-distancing works.” So, next time you feel like your feelings are all over your face - try talking to yourself with self distancing and let me know how it goes! 

 

Spotlight (modified transcript of #2 Lifeskills podcast)

Last week we focused on the #1 lifeskill - Understanding that everything that happens to you is not always about you. These lifeskills are based on an article in Psychology Today, “Lessons You Won’t Learn in School” by Jena Pincott. 

This week’s podcast is entitled “spotlight” and our #2 lifeskill is “Focusing on other people without dwelling on how they view you.” 

According to Jena, this thought goes along with last week’s discussion. If you are the center of the universe and the star of your life then you may also belief that everyone else is watching your every move. 

When you watch a movie star up on the big screen, it’s easy to notice absolutely everything about them because they are soooo big. I remember going to see “Dick Tracy” at the movie theatre with some friends in high school. Geez - it must have been the only movie playing at the time! 

Because we got there right before the movie started, we were in the front row. Literally, the front row. I nearly broke my neck watching it. As one actor walked into the scene from the left, I had to turn my neck to see them and then my neck moved as they moved across the screen. I think Warren Beaty had a yellow coat on (I guess they were trying to be bold like the cartoon) and I remember thinking, “Wow - that is a really yellow coat!” I could practically see the thread in the seams of the coat! 

The good and bad thing about movies is that you can really spend your time focusing on the actors. The spotlight is on them. You are running the spotlight. You are not interacting with them so you are just observing. Like mall watchers. They just sit and stare. (That might have be a time that you literally feel like a spotlight is on you!) 

Sometimes we then translate that spotlight effect onto ourselves and we think that we walk around with a spotlight on us in our everyday life. 

As you talk to someone you might think they are absolutely noticing everything good and bad about how you look. You might wonder: do I look pretty? awkward? confident? awkward? agitated? awkward? incompetent? awkward? All of these questions and fears running through your mind while you are trying to have a conversation and ask questions and answer their questions. That’s enough to wear you out! 

Want some good news? Jenna wrote that, “Evidence shows that the spotlight is not quite so bright. People do not notice us nearly as much as we think they do.” She discovered that many people believe that how we feel internally is “known to others”. She found that when people tried to practicing lying to others they overestimated how noticeable their lie was. 

Have you ever said something and later spent time running that scene through your memory and just cringing? Jena calls it a “verbal flub”.  You may have thought, “Oh my gosh I sounded so stupid!” or “I can’t believe I said that - how embarrassing!”. You just rerun and rerun it through your mind - as if that is going to change the event. 

Sure, we have all said things that might have made history but so many times we say things that nobody even remembers us saying. We are just so self centered! 

Like I pointed out on the previous podcast, these memories can be good for us. It gives us our identity but the fact is - we are not the center of the universe and we all make mistakes and maybe people don’t notice us as much as we think. 

Do you know what might happen if we take the focus off of us? We can then give up the quest to manipulate how people might be seeing us and we can interact with people in a more authentic way. Just chill and be ourselves. 

What if you were just who you are and you relaxed? 

What if you found those friends or people that you like and that like you just the way you are. Maybe then you will find other people opening up and being real with you. 

I have found that as a counselor, although I am not fond of putting my picture out there or even my voice, I do want to be “me”. Warts and all. If you are thinking about coming to a counselor and putting your emotions out on the table, don’t you want a counselor that you like and that you feel comfortable with? I’m not for everyone. I don’t have the time or energy to be the type of counselor that meets the specific needs of everyone. It’s just so much easier to be me. I can’t be anyone else successfully. 

Can you think of someone you can be with and you can really be you? Be thankful for that! I understand that at work maybe you are a little more professional or pulled together than you might be at home. We all have to use our manners and skills sometimes. I’m not encouraging you to be a messy slug all the time but sometimes we just need to be a messy slug. Sometimes we feel better when our hair is done and our makeup is on point. Sometimes we have to clean up nicely and sometimes we have to get down and dirty and look like we haven’t showered in days. 

Just realize that wherever you are and whatever you are doing, just do what you need to do. There may be some people noticing your every move but most people don’t. Just focus on them and ask them how they are doing. Get the spotlight off of yourself and just connect with people. We are all made for connecting so quit wasting time looking to see if you have lint in your belly button. Look up and notice the world and the other people in it. Enjoy this life! 

 

It's Not All About You (modified transcript of #1 Lifeskills Podcast)

Here is your daily joke from quickfunnyjokes.com: 

I changed all my passwords to "incorrect", so that whenever I forget, it will tell me, "Your password is incorrect." 

Hahaha do you have the same password for everything? According to experts, that’s not a good idea! I don’t even want to know how much time I spend looking up every password for every site I need to log into. But, this joke is actually a great life skill hack which leads me into my podcast topic. 

I want to talk today about lifeskills. When I think about "lifeskills", it reminds me of my kid’s elementary school that promoted lifeskills and they were more like good character traits. The basis for my podcast is from the June 2018 issue of Psychology Today article by Jena Pincott. 

The author wrote that wisdom comes from reacting to the world as it is and not as we ideally wish it were. These skills are intended to clarify what you want out of your life and help you determine what it might take to reach your goals. These lifeskills are based on what she terms “psychological truths”. 

The #1 lifeskill is “Understanding that not everything that happens to you is about you.” 

This is based on the term “egocentric bias”. Psychology Campus.com defines Egocentric Bias in this way:

     “An egocentric bias occurs when one thinks of the world from one's own point of view and self perception too much. Wishful thinking is a common example of an egocentric bias. Wishful thinking is essentially the belief that one is special.”

Sometimes I will ask clients how they would live if they were the star of their own show.  Or maybe if they were on a reality show and being filmed all the time. 

Some clients would thrive on living as a TV star with some show tunes in the background. (Wouldn’t life be more fun with our favorite songs playing in our day? Didn’t that TV show Ally McBeal have that happen?) 

Other clients would probably either stop doing some things that they would never want others to know and some clients might suddenly become brave enough to do the one thing they have always wanted to do. 

My point with all of this is that some of us need to stop living as if everything that happens in our life is only affecting us. As if we are the only person in the world worth noticing or worrying about. 

We all have frustrating circumstances in our lives. The author, Jena, wrote that if our partner’s mood changes, we get stuck in traffic, or our stock prices rise…these are all ups and downs that we take very personally. We look at these events in regards to how they affect us. I do it. You do it. We all do it.  

Social scientists believe that the way we see events through the lens of “how this affects me” is important because by personalizing these experiences, we remember the moment and our memories form our identity. We learn from our memories. 

Jena wrote that it is important to remember that this viewpoint is an “adaptive illusion”. The fact is that your partner may be having his/her own bad day and it may have nothing to do with you.

If your boss is snippy do you automatically assume it is because you did something? Do you think you are the target of traffic jams? Did you not get a job and you take it personally? 

Jena pointed out that you might even then feel “baffled, offended, maybe irate”. Then what happens? You get emotional, you then have to “nurse perceived wounds” which may lead you to completely change your next behavior. 

Have you ever said to your partner, “Hey, what have I done to you?” and they look at you like “Huh?” Jena wrote that this “egocentric bias causes us to misread others” and “undermines empathy and tolerance”. 

What if instead you asked your partner, “Hey, is there anything you need?” or “How are you doing?”. I’m all for personal responsibility and if your partner is indeed mad at you because of something you have done, then you can talk about it. 

This approach would be much more productive then assuming that his/her mood is “about you”. 

There are also many people that are so fearful of people not liking them that they walk on egg shells and assume that however someone is acting towards them is all about them. 

Jena suggests that we live “less reactive, more directed” lives. Do you see what she is saying? What if you didn’t react to others in a way where you feel their behavior is because of you or focused on you. 

What if you worked toward whatever tasks or goals you need to work on and then casually react to others if needed? 

If we realize that our “point of view is not the only one” then we can calmly approach our life with a clearer view. Why get sidetracked by someone’s else’s moods because we think it is “all about me”? 

This approach “subdues the ego” and “widens” the “perspective”. Maybe removing our “self from center stage” could lead to less stress and more happiness? 

You may have someone in your life that really is affected by everything you do. Do you bow down to them and do everything they want? 

Maybe you could consider drawing the line somewhere and letting them do some things for themselves. Let them begin to live a more directed live. 

On the other hand, do you have someone shouting out their needs and you ignore them because of how it affects you? 

Maybe take a few minutes to sit and talk with them gently and let them know that you see them and want to try to reach a compromise on what each of you are willing and able to do to get both of your needs met. 

This lifeskill isn’t going to solve all your problems and of course there are always more difficult situations than others so please don’t feel as if I know your situation and this viewpoint is all about you. This is a quick podcast and simplified list. But today begin to ponder the thought that maybe everything that happens to you is not necessarily always about YOU. 

 

Nailed It!

It's Not About The Nail video - 

Have you seen this hilarious and insightful video about relationships? 

Click here to view it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg

I love working with couples and having deep and effective conversations that can deepen understanding and connection between them. When one says something and the other person gets it, I want to jump up and down and cheer with both of them and say, "You nailed it!" 

Do you like me? But why?

Read, instead of listen to, the abridged transcript of the podcast:

I've got a little bit of a joke for you today:

I hate change, but I also hate change. So if the US gets rid of pennies and nickels I'm not sure how I'll feel. (hahahaha)

Today I would like to talk about a question I got from a Client. She gave me permission to share her question (even though she will remain unnamed).

She asked me, “How is it that you're so supportive of me? I feel like all I've really ever shown you is the dark and negative sides of me and yet you're just always there.” Hmmm…good question!

My first feeling was how vulnerable she must have felt to ask me that. Did she wonder if I even liked her? She was brave too - what if I had said, “Um, it’s my job to make you feel that way.” “You pay me to support you.” How awful that would be for me to feel that way and for her to hear that! But, these are common fears that Clients have. Thankfully that is NOT what I thought or felt! 

However I replied to her was in an honest way and I am not sure what my exact words were to her but it got me thinking that maybe giving more thought into my response would be helpful to my listeners.

It brought back to memory what I wrote in one of my first blog posts. It was “4 reasons why your counselor is not judging you”. I don’t know why I said “your counselor” but what I meant is why I am not judging you.

I listed the reasons as courage, humility, compassion and experience. Basically I believe it takes courage and humility for a client to even reach out for help and support.

I respect them for even making contact with me. That’s a big first step.

The second 2 reasons - compassion and experience. I have a heart to help you. I am always compassionate with where you are in your life. I have a lot of life experiences and if I have not been through similar circumstances, I’ve probably dealt with it with one of my clients AND I am always willing to learn something new from you. I don’t have to have gone through what you are going through to support you and encourage you. 

With this client, and all my clients, I listen. I see her. I inquire about the things I need more information about. I challenge negative thinking. I sympathize and empathize with the tough parts of the story. I can get down in the pit but I have attached a safety wire to me before I get down there. I don’t plan to stay down there and my goal is for both of us to get out.

The whole time, I am not judging her. Those dark and negative sides that she referred to - those don’t keep me from seeing her. From seeing how wonderfully and beautifully created she is! I can still see her spirit. Her soul.

I want joy and peace and contentment for her. I want her to feel my acceptance of her - with whatever flaws she sees in herself. I’m not perfect. I appreciate when others overlook my faults and failures.

I have hopes for my clients but I don’t have expectations. Her growth or backsliding does not change my stance. I like my clients. I love them and I always want to continue to support them. I try to point out their good qualities and sometimes I have to convince them they they DO have good qualities and talents! 

I want her to feel accepted just as she is. I want her to feel loved and “live loved”. Which reminds me of a book I appreciate. It’s called “Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely”. The author is Lysa TerKeurst. She is a Christian author, and for those that don’t align with a Christian faith, I hope you’ll bear with me. On page 94 of this book is something I underlined. Lysa cites an article from Dr. Aaron Ben-Zeev (forgive me if I pronounced that wrong!) wrote an article for “Psychology Today” about belonging.

I am going to read Lysa’s quote now: “Acceptance is like an antibiotic that prevents past rejection from turning into present-day infections. The need for belonging runs deep. The need to belong goes beyond the need for superficial social ties…it is a need for meaningful, profound bonding. A sense of belongingness is crucial to our well-being…The lack of belongingness causes various undesirable effects, including a decrease in the levels of health, happiness, and adjustment.” 

Acceptance prevents your past moments of either being rejected OR not feeling accepted or supported from turning into a big bag of rocks that you are toting around all day!

We were created to belong and connect to others. We need real connection. Attachment to others. Maybe not “many” others but at least someone! Otherwise we are going to be sick, unhappy and out of balance. 

There is a term called “Therapeutic alliance” in therapy. This is the bond between therapist and client. I forget the percentages but I do remember that this alliance is one of the key factors in client success and change.

If my client and I aren’t connected and she feels I am not supporting or accepting, that may leave her feeling terrible. The beautiful thing is that I find it really easy to form an alliance with my client. Thank God! I’ve heard from other counselors that this is really hard for them. I’ve heard from clients that they have found it really hard to find someone that they feel comfortable with, much less attached to.

Now there is also the other extreme (and very common scenario) of becoming so attached to your therapist that you can’t move forward. Google Kristen Bell’s video and song about how much she loves her therapist. It’s hilarious! I’m not afraid of clients becoming attached. It’s beneficial. Granted, I don’t want a stalker that wants to hurt me but I love connecting with my clients! I wish I could be “real life” friends with all of them but I know that it’s best for me to be a reliable and supportive place that they can come back to later in life if they need me. 

So…how can you apply all of my rambling thoughts to your life? 

  1. If you don’t feel supported by your therapist - move on. There is a difference between your therapist challenging you, pushing you and encouraging you to improve your life. You should still feel they accept you and want “better” for you. 
  2. If you aren’t interested in counseling - fine - but do you need support from another person? A friend? A mentor? Keep an eye out for one. Or maybe you can start with being a friend or mentor to someone. What are your gifts and how can you use them? What brings you joy? Start there!
  3. If you have someone that supports you, I’m sure you are grateful for that. Thank them. Then pay it forward and support someone else. Then they will probably use that energy to support another. 

You’re not alone. I know it may feel like it sometimes but it doesn’t have to be that way. What little step could you take today to not feel alone? Reach out. Look for someone with a smile - that’s always a good sign that they might have some extra love to give. 

You are worthy. You are lovable. You are loved. Live Loved. 

 

List of available blogs:

Yoga pants and unintended consequences

Read, instead of listen to, the abridged transcript of the podcast:

Joke from quickfunnyjokes.com 

Q: What do you call the heavy breathing someone makes while trying to hold a yoga pose? 

A: Yoga pants. 

My focus today is about pants. Ever put some on and they suddenly wouldn’t button? Ouch.

That reminds me of a day, over 25 years ago, when a friend told me that she had gained 20 lbs over the past year. Her pants were not fitting her anymore. And they had not created yoga pants yet! How did we even live back then???

Maybe yoga pants have been beneficial in getting people to yoga but those pants have also allowed some of us to just keep on eating and not feeling it in our pants.

Anyway - back to my friend. She said she had not made any food changes. None. She said she took the same type of lunch to work and prepared a basic dinner at night. She never battled her weight before so I was a little alarmed and thought maybe she had something medically going wrong.

I put on my detective hat and asked her something along the lines of what other changes have you made to your life? More stress? Less exercise? Anything? Then she said that she had bought a new house and it had a great screened in back porch. She loved to sit on it with her family and neighbors.

Ok…that sounded like a good thing. Maybe she was doing a little more sitting than normal. Hmmm. Then she said they had started drinking a glass of red wine while they sat and chatted. Ok…that’s 120 calories.

I asked how many glasses she would have a night. 2. How many times did they get together a week? 6 evenings. I’m no math wizard but 120 times 2 times 6 x 52 weeks equals right at 20 lbs!

When we realized that there was a clear reason why she had gained 20 lbs, I think we were relieved! And we just laughed and laughed about it!

We have come a long way in being educated on calories and nutrition since then, and my friend and I were both young and thinner at the time. We would probably know better these days. But, maybe not. we seem to have even more food and drink temptations these days. But, wow, we still were pretty shocked over this revelation.

Those were unintended consequences weren’t they?

It makes me think about how we all make choices every day. Even little choices. That turn into big consequences.

Her choice to sit on her beautiful screened in porch and have a couple of glasses of wine while relaxing and sharing life with dear neighbors turned into an extra 20 lbs of weight she had to carry around.

Imagine picking up 2 10 lb dumbells and toting that around with you and your pocketbook all day. Was it worth it? Maybe. Maybe not.

I could think of a a dozen instances in our life where little things turn into big things. That laundry basket that’s overflowing and suddenly you have no clean clothes. All the leftovers in the fridge and suddenly you have no more clean tupperware.

You yell at your kids and suddenly they have vanished into their bedrooms and you’ve got to make extra effort to regain your closeness.

You quit sharing your heart with your spouse (for whatever reason) and then a chill in the air is quite noticeable.

Thankfully there are things we can do to remedy all these problems.

The bad news is that it takes work. That’s where we often get stuck. That’s ok. I think that we can find the good or the silver lining to all of our mindless choices.

The trick is mustering up the motivation to stop doing something or start doing something. The drive. The initiative.

Maybe if you envision that clean laundry put up or that improved relationship, it will motivate you. You can also mentally go down that path of what it would look like if you continued on the same path.

What if my friend continued for the next 25 years drinking those 2 glasses of wine every night with her friends. Literally, and you do the math. She would have gained 500 more pounds!!!

So today, maybe take a few minutes to consider just one area of your life that has gotten just a little bit out of control. Has crossed over its boundaries.

Where are you feeling a little squeezed in, like those pants that don’t button anymore? I don’t believe it is ever too late to start making even the tiniest steps.

If you need support moving forward, find a friend you trust and ask for their help.

Seek a counselor. I help clients do this everyday. You can do whatever you set your mind to do.

Your thoughts lead to feelings which lead to behavior. It can be a good cycle of thoughts or an unhelpful or unhealthy cycle of thoughts that lead to behavior that leaves you with unintended consequences. And all of this is just about balance.

Maybe it won’t even take much effort to get those pants fitting a little better. Maybe it will take a good bit of effort, but I guarantee it will be worth it and you’ll feel so accomplished.

Killer Words

Read, instead of listen to, the abridged version of the podcast. 

Let’s start our day off with a cheesy joke from quickfunnyjokes.com:

Q: Who walks into a restaurant, eats shoots and leaves? 

A: A Panda

This joke should read "eats chutes and leaves" as in the green, bushy, variety type. This joke has to be based on the book by the name of “Panda Eats Shoots and Leaves - why commas really do make a difference”. There is a children’s book and an adult book. Both are pretty entertaining.  I’m going to base the rest of our time together on this joke but I feel like I probably neglected to make you laugh so let’s have a go at another joke. 

Q: Why did the yogurt go to the art exhibit? 

A: Because it was cultured. 

haha - okay, let’s get back to the Panda joke. 

This joke reminds me of the power of our words and how a misspoken or misinterpreted word, a word spelled one way that can mean two different things, or the ill placed comma can make all the difference in our communication with others! 

One glance at this joke could have you envisioning the Panda, coming into a restaurant with a gun and he eats, then shoots up everything and then leaves. Or, it could simply be a hungry Panda that comes in and orders and eats some green “chutes and leaves” off of the menu. Sometimes our language and grammar can be so confusing!   So today, let’s focus on the spoken word and leave the Oxford comma debate for another day. 

How can our words be “Pert” while still dealing with a difficult situation or relationship? Sometimes we are so mad, sad or fearful that we just barge into a room with someone that we want to speak to and start shooting and leave - shooting with our words and then high - tailing it out of there after we have shot the place up or when the return fire bullets start flying. 

Whoa whoa whoa let’s slow this all down. Do you really know how powerful your words are? Have you ever been yelled at? 

Sometimes just the force of the words are painful enough to receive. Like taking a bullet. Sometimes the actual words are what hurts. 

On the flip side, has anyone ever said something encouraging to you? Mmmm…those feel good don’t they? Even if someone yelled, “Hey smarty!” um…I will still receive those words well. hahaha Thank you for very much. 

That reminds of an old memory  - Leave it to my brother to tell me for the first time in my life “Wow, you look beautiful.” Justttt as I was about to walk down the aisle for my wedding. I pretty much cried for most of the wedding because I couldn’t get my shock and emotions under control. So, please don’t WAIT to tell someone something kind. Do it before the biggest day of their life. Or death. 

Maybe there are words you really need to say to someone, whether hard to hear words or healing words, you know down in your gut that you need to say something. It reminds me of the John Mayer song “Say what you need to say”. If you aren’t familiar with this song, look it up. This “say what you need to say” is such a huge topic and it is the subject of many books but today I just want you to go into your day aware of the power to hurt or heal just with your words. 

Please don’t go shooting and leaving the scene of an encounter with someone.  Instead, take a tip from a Panda - go to lunch and eat a leafy green salad with a friend , co-worker or partner. Say something nice or even if you have to say something difficult, say it in a kind way. 

5 tips to help you say what you need to say: 

  1. Think about your words before you meet (gather your thoughts).
  2. Practice saying the words - at home, in front of a mirror, write it down - edit as needed. 
  3. Think about how it may sound to the receiving party.
  4. THEN pick an appropriate time to say these words (ask the person when would be a good time to talk; this will also enable them to not be completely caught blind-sided)
  5. Then do your best to deliver your message in a way that you would want to receive those same words.   Like my grandmother would say, “Treat others the way you would want to be treated”. 

Grief - Lessons from the TV show "This Is Us"

Read, rather than listen to, the abridged transcript of the podcast:

This is a special edition podcast dedicated to those of us that watched the NBC tv show “This Is Us”. This podcast will cover the episode that premiered the night of the Super Bowl and the Tuesday night afterwards. We are now anticipating the next episode after the winter olympics end. If you haven’t seen the show, I hope I don’t spoil anything for you in this podcast. Maybe come back and listen to this when you do get caught up on the episodes. But, mainly this podcast will be about how to handle grief and can apply to nearly all of us at some point in our life. 

I wasn’t planning to have a joke in this podcast BUttttt I have to share a tweet I read. A man wrote “Either my wife is in the other room watching This is Us OR she just got a phone call that our entire family is dead.” I hope that we can laugh about such a serious topic BECAUSE it is just a tv show. But, I understand if this is a trigger to some past pain in your life. Which is what has led me to do this podcast. 

There is so much I could, and want, to talk about but I have felt led to address the topic of grief. From a mental health perspective. The Pearson’s story is especially tragic. Complicated grief. The loss of their father/husband and the loss of their home and nearly everything they owned. Almost too much to mentally bear. 

The emotions Rebecca went through as she took a bite of that candy bar and then realized that news about her husband was true. Whew - a roller coaster of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. 

We can all probably agree that we grieved the loss of Jack but you may have been triggered because of past loss in your own life. Or you could be fearful going forward with the thoughts of “how am I going to handle future loss”. 

If you haven't lost someone dear to you, this probably isn’t news, but chances are high that you will eventually cross that bridge. And I do want you to cross that bridge - just like Rebecca finally did. I love how she drove across that bridge with her children when, earlier, she struggled to even ride in the car as a passenger with her eyes closed. I bet she is even shocked at the progress she made. 

I think it is a good idea to prepare a bit for future loss. Maybe I can reduce some of your fear. I’ve had numerous losses in my life, both loved ones and “things” and I have survived. By the grace of God and by learning to do the 4 things I want to talk to you about. 

I am going to try to inject some humor, just as the writers of This is Us do. I also think Jack would want that. 

I have 4 points I want to address:

1. There are good and bad ways to cope with the pain.

Good ways - Cry. Hug. Rest. Take one step at a time. Do what you need to do. Rebecca grabbed her kids and walked out of the visitation after the funeral. Was I the only one thinking “Um…not even a goodbye to everyone that is there for you?” BUT she did what she needed to do. She needed to go to the tree with her kids. And didn’t they look sharp in their clothes? Technical question, but where did Rebecca drum up a perfect little black dress and winter coat? 

Seriously, if you are the observer to someone grieving, please do not judge how they respond to their grief. Try to support them. I know you many of you will whip up a casserole and  - man - isn’t that the best way to support someone? 

True story - I love McDonald’s little hamburgers. I lost someone in my life when I was younger. All I really wanted was one of those hamburgers. An older single man that lived in the neighborhood (that I didn’t even really know) came to my house and brought a bag with 10 of them in it. He said he didn’t know what to do but he felt like McDonald’s might be the answer. Amen!

Bad ways to cope with the pain - alcohol and xanax are not your friend. It’s easy. It works. I get it. Just be careful. Very careful. It’s a slippery slope and whether you know it or not, xanax IS addictive. It literally physically depresses your body - your muscles and everything else. 

If you don’t believe me, do an internet search on withdrawing from Benzodiazepines. I know Kevin’s rehab place looked swanky but he is The Manny. He can afford a place like that but I bet he would have rather turned back time and never needed to detox. 

What Kevin really needed was connection. We all do. So don’t isolate yourself from others when what you need is to be with others. It’s normal to need more alone time to recover, just don’t end up in a pit because of it. For those supporting those that have experienced a loss, check on them. For as long as they need it. That leads me to number 2. 

2. Look for unexpected blessings.

Did you just melt into a puddle of tears when Dr. K came up to Rebecca after the funeral?? You know, the actor Gerald McRaney that was the doctor that delivered the triplets? Unexpected blessings. Whew - did Rebecca need to see and hear from him at that moment! He gave a hug, some sage advice and then offered his services - he said he was pretty good at sitting these days. Are you good at just sitting? Go sit with someone. Find someone that is good with sitting with you. 

If you are uncomfortable with funerals or wonder what to say to someone that is grieving - my advice is to endure the uncomfortable feelings and awkwardness. I’m pretty sure that there is nothing you can say to make them feel worse and that just your presence says so much and can help with comfort and healing. Your presence is not going to make them feel any worse. 

Maybe you need more than just a person sitting there. There may be a time that you need a really perky pert friend. Keep an eye out for those people that you need. Be hopeful that an unexpected blessing is going to come your way. 

As a warning - if you are grieving, please let others know what you need. You cant expect people to read your mind. Please don’t be offended if others are up to their necks in their own lives. We are all doing the best we can and oftentimes that is stressed to the max. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world and we all fail BUT I know there are blessings to be seen and experienced. Remember the pert plan and focus on “better” things when you can.

3. When something tragic happens, please don’t blame yourself or blame others. 

Kate blamed herself for crying out for her dog that was left in the house. Kevin blamed Randall for not preventing their dad from going back into the house. Rebecca could have blamed herself for not getting that fire alarm battery. She could have blamed the hospital for not doing more for Jack. I personally blame the writers for making me cry, my heart race, and my hands sweat. 

Not blaming someone for your loss may be easier said than done based on circumstances but I know that the need for forgiveness is absolutely vital to your future functioning and health. 

My faith helped me handle some absolutely tragic news in my life. What helped you in times of loss? Think about those things and be ready to share that in the future with someone that may be floundering with loss. 

Loss can affect us in different ways. When I was presented with news of a sudden loss, I did experience shock, “lightbulb” moments that will probably always be a part of my memory, but I also probably blurred out some parts of those times. Our brains sometimes protect us from that pain. 

If we can maintain hope that we could eventually be stronger because of our loss, it may put some perspective into the moment. Give reason for the pain. I’m not trying to get into a theological discussion so I encourage you to seek someone to sort out the emotions and thoughts you are having based on your individual situation. You will benefit from getting those emotions out rather than stuffing them down.

4. My final tip is  - Go to the Bruce Springsteen concert.     

Have fun. Seek joy. Seize that unexpected blessing! I was so proud of Rebecca and the kids for going to that concert after the funeral! If they decided not to go, that would have been absolutely fine BUT it was going to be good for their spirits. Jack would have wanted it! I’m not sure how this is going to play out on the show, but I am stayed tuned. 

We often hear the advice of “don’t make any big decisions for one year” directed at a grieving family member. This is not bad advice but sheez - some people allow that advice to really fence them in and stay stuck. I suggest consulting with family members that love you AND with people that have no financial or emotional stake in your affairs. 

You need wisdom and discernment moving forward. But you also need fun. You need laughter. You need some breathing room. 

If you are going through grief from just watching “This is Us”, talk to your fellow tv viewers. I’m sure there are numerous blogs where you can give and get support. I tell ya - I know I am a bit different after enduring the watching of this show! Like unplugging my crockpot last night. 

If you are going through real life grief, I hope that this has been helpful. If you have been through grief in your life and feel you can help hold hands with someone walking in it right now, please do that. If you fear losing a loved one in the future, please don’t be fearful. That just sucks the life out of you today. Enjoy today and every day. If and when grief hits you, you’re gonna get through it. You’re not alone. 

 

Love

Read, instead of listen to, the abridged version of the podcast. 

A few Valentine's jokes from quick funny jokes.com:

Q: How do skunks celebrate Valentine's Day? A: They get very scent-imental.

 Q: What did one light bulb say to the other on Valentine's Day? A: I love you watts.

Q: What do farmers give their wives on Valentine's Day? A: Hogs and kisses.

With this podcast being posted on Valentine’s Day so let’s just go in that direction. 

LOVE. What thoughts and feelings does Valentine’s Day stir up in you? 

I can only imagine all the different answers I would get if I could hear your voice. 

Some people literally loveeee this day. Other people dread it. 

Maybe it is the pressure to express your feelings for another that you feel awkward saying. Maybe it is the hope of being someone’s valentine but then that someone doesn’t show up. It can be a big fat day of unmet expectations. 

The high school my children went to make a paper valentines heart for every student and hang it in the hallways. There was always something written for each person. Then other students could write more on a valentine if they felt led to do so. I thought it was a nice way to “love on” the students. But…I imagine there were some hurt feelings if you didn’t get as much love as someone else. Like most things in life, good intentions have the potential for good but also for harm. 

We all need love. Some of us need more affection, physical touch and encouraging words than others. But I would venture to say that we all need someone else. We are made for connection. When you don’t have it, it hurts. When you do have it, we thrive. We go through seasons of life where we receive more love than other times. 

Where are you today? What do you need? Do you feel lovable? 

There are a lot of us that just don’t feel worthy of being loved. 

If that is you today, I want to speak to that hurt. Every one of us is worthy of love. You are a beautiful creation. Wonderfully and beautifully made. I don’t care what you look like, what your abilities are, whether you have a grumpy attitude or what you have done in your life that you are not proud of. You have value. You are on this earth for a reason. 

Maybe you need someone to come alongside you and give you a boost. Look for that someone to show up. Ask for what you need. Be patient and keep your hope alive that something in live that will bring you joy. In the meantime, be kind to yourself. 

Talk to yourself and say nice things to yourself. What are your strengths? What is something you like about yourself? What can you do that you are thankful for? Like a skill or ability.  We all have room for improvement, so don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s hard not to compare ourselves to others but resist the urge to compare. Love yourself today. Did you know you can kind of give yourself a hug. Try it. Just wrap your arms around yourself. Now go…find something that brings you joy. Today, that might be a piece of chocolate. Enjoy it! 

According to Pinterest, which by the way is a very reputable source of quotes. 

Vincent Van Gogh said, “I feel there is nothing more artistic than loving people.” 

Hmm…what if loving others IS an art form? You may be creating art that isn’t necessarily seen, but it is felt. Maybe if you are someone that feels loved and are living as if you are worthy of love - please shine that love to just one person today. Notice someone that is in need of love. Just a smile or a hello or a kind word could be enough to give them hope. We often forget that there are a lot of hurting folks out there.  

And maybe you are just the artist for the job!  

 

Pruning

The Pert Plan is an acronym for thinking about things that are PERT - pure, excellent, right, true….and PLAN stands for praiseworthy, lovely, admirable, and noble. It is based on a Bible verse - Philipians 4:8

Your clean, cheesy joke of the day from quickfunnyjokes.com

Q: Why aren’t koalas actual bears? 

A: The don’t meet the koalafications.

I want to read a Pinterest post by “Lisa Byrne” - picture a beautiful green background with a cluster of white flowers in the background. The flowers look a bit like a dogwood tree bloom but not exactly. Very delicate. I’ve never seen this bloom before. The quote is “When we can become skilled at selectively knowing what to prune out of our lives, what remains becomes stronger, brighter, clearer.” 

This reminds me of walking into my office last week after a cold, dry weekend and my peace lily plant was totally flat as a pancake. It was still green, but absolutely wilted like it had fainted on the floor. I gave it a big cup of water and waited all day to see if any life would burst forth, but there was no evidence of movement. By the next morning, I walked it and “poof” it was alive and well, pert and perky and green and glowing! All it needed was some hydration and a good night’s sleep. 

Isn’t that what we all need? But sometimes we need a bit more. Maybe some pruning. Some cutting away of the dead blooms or leaves that, as a gardener might say “those dead leaves are just sucking away all the nutrients that should be going to the leaves that are still alive!”

A master gardener might say, “Pam - don’t be afraid of killing it - pluck or cut those away! Otherwise the whole plant is gonna die!” When I am so panicked that I might lose my entire plant. The plant I have cared for so many years, I might be paralyzed with fear. Fear of loss. But, sometimes we have to get in there and whack away the dead. 

Just today I drove down the interstate and saw a tragedy. Dozens and dozens of crepe myrtle trees cut back to their nubs. Those crepe myrtles had been murdered. Southern Living magazine taught me that term years ago “Crepe murder”. But I don’t think the highway landscaping workers subscribe to Southern Living. They are doing the best they can. What is efficient and seemingly effective. They cut away nearly everything. But it is sure a sore sight for the next couple of months. 

Sure those crepe myrtles will eventually bloom but I think they end up looking stubby looking. Nothing like the old graceful crepe myrtles that are tenderly trimmed of their dead blooms at the end of the season. I think crepe myrtles in the winter with their bloomless arms are quite beautiful. A stark reminder of the winter but a vision of hope for the summer blooms to come. 

Maybe if those crepe myrtles had a master gardener that took the time to see what part should stay, what parts should go - that would be beneficial to the crepe myrtle (and much more attractive). 

Like each tree and plant, we are all seemingly similar but actually different in many ways. We all need a little attention and pruning every season. So, what can we learn from my dehydrated easter lily and those murdered crepe myrtles? What do we need to gently prune away in our lives today? A snappy word out of our mouth? A hateful thought? A toxic person? 

Maybe you feel overwhelmed and just need some water, some sleep and maybe some of those fancy fertilizers that plants need. Some nutritious food and some sunlight? Take care of yourself. Take care of those plants and trees in your care. But a warning for all those plants and humans that you feel need a LOT of pruning - Don’t get in there with your friend, your children or your spouse and hack away at all their dead blooms. Help them if they need it or ask for it but focus on getting yourself blooming and then you are capable and experienced to help others. 

And when you have some free time, somebody please start a hashtag campaign - #stop the crepe murders! 

(Guided deep breathing.) 

The Rough with the Smooth

If you are new to the podcast, please check out the 1st podcast to learn what the Pert Plan is about. 

I will spend 5-10 minutes today chit chatting about various topics. Ultimately, The Pert Plan is an acronym for thinking about things that are PERT - pure, excellent, right, true….and PLAN stands for praiseworthy, lovely, admirable, and noble. 

Let’s start our day off with a cheesy joke from quickfunnyjokes.com

Q: How do snails fight? 

A: They slug it out. 

Ok, I love cheesy jokes. Always have. Just bear with me if you don’t like that kind of humor. Are you thinking, “Surely, you can be serious?” Well, I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley. da dum dum. If you are too young to know that quote, go watch the comedy “Airplane” - one of my faves. 

This admittedly cheesy joke made me think about how we sometimes slug it out with those we are in relationships with. 

A recent relationship that I was intrigued with was Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The 2nd season of The Crown premiered in December and I was feeling a little under the weather for a few days and that is the perfect time to binge on Netflix, right? I was successful in completing the viewing of this series. There was one scene that I would like to quote and I don’t think it is going to spoil anything for you if you haven’t seen the series and/or don’t care if you ever do see the series! 

This was a quote from Prince Philip at their 10 year anniversary dinner. Now, I don’t know if he actually said this in real life but I think we can benefit from it either way.

Philip said (after being married for 10 years) that after this time “one sees the whole of the other person. You see even the part of them that they don’t see themselves. And presumably —they see the hidden part of you. One ends up knowing more about one’s partner than they know about themselves. And it can be pretty tough to keep quiet about it. So you have to come to an accommodation, an arrangement, a deal (if you like) to take the rough with the smooth. But the extraordinary thing is that down there in the rough, in the long reeds of difficulty and pain, that is where you find the treasure.”

Wow, when I watched this episode and heard these words, let me tell you what was also going on - I also read the words because I love having closed captioning on. Do you do that? Probably not! I haven’t found many people that do but I am comfortable enough in my idiosyncrasies to not really care what anybody else thinks about this topic. I think it is like reading a book while watching a movie. I even like youtube videos that have the words. If you have noises going on in your household and you are trying to watch a movie, it’s very frustrating if you miss something. I don’t even like going to the movie theatre anymore because they don’t have closed captioning. Thankfully all my family members have been accommodating with me and they don’t even complain when I ask, “Is the closed captioning for the deaf and hearing impaired on?” hahaha yep, that’s me! (No offense to the deaf and the hard of hearing - GrandDaddy- I know closed captioning is necessary for them!) 

Ok, so maybe Philip’s words really stood out because I heard them and read them, but nonetheless, he was being very honest about what it is like to be in a lengthy relationship with another. Whether that is your spouse, a family member or a friend. You see the frustrating parts of them and you want to point it out to them! You realize they may see something irritating in you but that’s a topic for another day. He says that you come to a deal, whether in your head or with them to take the good and the bad. The rough with the smooth. 

Have you had to do that with someone? We all have expectations of others and what that relationship should be or could be. And then reality hits us upside the head. Prince Philip is encouraging us that in this place of difficulty and pain, the place where you set aside your expectations - you find the treasure. Now he doesn’t elaborate on what that treasure looks like - and Queen Elizabeth definitely has some literal treasures that we will never have in our life. But, I think that those treasures could be a deeper love for the other person, a thankfulness for what good qualities they do have, and gratitude for the things that they overlook in your own behavior or attitude. 

Have you had someone in your life for a lengthy time period? Have you found that it is worth it? I hope so. If you don’t have a relationship like that, I encourage you today to identify someone that is in your life that you may want to spend a little extra time in nurturing that relationship. If you don’t have anyone, keep an eye out for them! You never know when they may show up. 

If you are married and you are already making a list of things that irk the heck out of you and you want to yell it to them at the top of your lungs - what if today you shut your mouth. Said the opposite - said something encouraging today. What if you replaced that criticism (although seemingly constructive) with a compliment? An encouraging word? Think about trying it. Let me know how that goes. And if you are in a relationship that you are viewing as a treasure, let that other person know that. Today. 

(Guided deep breathing on Podcast.) 

The Pert Plan Podcast

(This blog is an abridged version of The Pert Plan Podcast. You can find the podcast under the link in the menu.)  

So what’s this podcast all about? I have had some clients jokingly say that they wish they could have a Pam CD to listen to in the car or take me in their pocket or pocketbook (that is what a purse is called for all my non-southerner friends).  I was inspired to make a podcast for them to listen to. A podcast? Me? Southern talking me? I say “own” the internet instead of “on” the internet. Would anybody even want to hear my voice? I know I can’t bear to hear myself talk. I asked my husband and he assured me that it was a good idea and since I usually use my nice voice on the phone, it would be fine.  So here I am. If you don’t like me or my voice, I know there are other podcasts you can listen to so best wishes to you on your journey! 

If you are still hanging around, let me tell you a little bit more about what The Pert Plan is, and what vision I have for this podcast. Years ago I was reading Philippians 4 in the Bible where the author says to not be anxious about anything, but to pray about it and you will experience peace. Then in verse 8, it lists a few things to “think about” - there were 8 words listed and I thought maybe I could come up with an acronym to remember those things I could think about. 

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”

That's when I ended up with The Pert Plan - pure, excellent, right, true….praiseworthy, lovely, admirable, and noble. Some of those are a little old fashioned but I think we know what those mean. From another point of you, you could look at it focusing on good things as “higher thinking” or “evolved consciousness” or a “higher vibration or frequency”. Basically, all of these involve more positive thinking. 

Are you old enough to remember the Pert shampoo commercials? I just remember “bouncing and behaving hair”. The definition of pert means lively and attractive or cheerful and self confident. Don’t we prefer to be around people that are pert as opposed to not? I mean, there are some annoyingly persistently pert people and you may just want to kind of go pop them on the top of their head to bring them back to reality. But, generally, there is probably someone out there that you can think of that is a nice balance of realistic and encouraging, right? That’s my goal for myself and for you. To be pert - more days than not. Most days have enough trials and low moments in them so I think starting the day off on a positive note would be helpful in not only surviving, but thriving in our day. There are some very hard days, weeks or seasons in our lives that are not what we would consider PERT, but hey - we all need goals, right? Even if it doesn’t seem attainable to you at the moment, I believe we can get you to a better place. 

In counseling I use cognitive behavioral therapy and teach the link between cognitive (our thoughts) and our behavior. Have you ever found yourself thinking of stressful, sad or mad things and your body gets stressed from it? You may have physical symptoms that you don’t want. There is a link between your thoughts and your body. What if we tried to turn our thoughts from a negative into a positive? What if your thoughts energized your body or got you to a peaceful, calm state? It’s possible. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to get there but you can do it. 

So, I think that if I can provide you with a 5-10ish minute podcast for you to listen to at the beginning of your day, maybe it will be a benefit to you. I love quotes - especially all those million Pinterest quotes or memes you see online. I’m not that creative but I love to share them. I will give credit to those that do create those funny or thought provoking posts. I’m also open to suggestions on what you would like to hear on these podcasts. You can email your comments to thepertplan@gmail.com

I won’t be counseling you but I will inevitably use some of the things I say in my counseling sessions. As much as I love to laugh, I am also a serious person. I love sarcasm, without hurting anyone.  I want this time together to at least be a fun few minutes in your day…. helpful, to help you not feel as alone as you might be feeling at the time and at best, I would love for our time together to be inspiring. I also want our time together to point us toward how to look at pain in our lives in a more positive way. I want us to get motivated to make changes that we want. Maybe at first we just think about “thinking about getting motivated”. For some it is a quicker process than others and that’s just fine. I know that I am daily inspired by the work I see my clients doing! 

Even if the podcast touches on “hard stuff”, I will try to leave our time together on an uplifting note. A perk point of view. 

I will ultimately end each podcast with a little deep breathing. You may have NO idea how effective some simple breathing is for your body! Or maybe you do - maybe you do yoga or meditate BUT I won’t be doing that on here. Just a few guided breaths to clear the ‘ol mind and get the body moving. 

 

 

 

Social Media

There is so much amazingly educational information on the internet, isn't there? Although, it can be overwhelming sometimes. I have to just take it all in small doses. 

When I am with my Clients, I find myself either sharing some of the same information with each of them or not having enough time to share what I really want to share with them!

Facebook posts and Pinterest boards are an easy way to pass helpful tips to my Clients. I love funny and inspirational quotes and these platforms give me a place to share my favorites.

Scientific facts, healthy tips and anecdotal information keep my eyes glued to my computer. I am thankful to be able to hit "save" and, in turn, provide a place for you to be encouraged or learn something new.

You can click the social media symbols at the bottom of each page of this website to quickly link to these sites. Enjoy and share! 

Where Have I Seen That Bridge Before?

Did you think "I've seen that bridge before!" on the front page of Pam Litchford Counseling? Yes! Me too! If you are a fan of the HBO series, "Big Little Lies", you have seen that bridge numerous times, including the opening credits.  It is the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California. I know...it is not a South Carolina bridge and I feel a little guilty about not using a home state picture, but that's okay. I selected that photo before the series premiered from Squarespace's template for websites. I am glad I did not know it would be featured on the series because I may not have used it. I love it and I will keep it for now. We do not have any bridges or scenery that look quite like that in South Carolina and maybe that is part of why I like it. It feels different. The beachy colors are my favorite colors. The water looks refreshing, yet probably pretty cold. The architect is simple yet complex and more old fashioned than the modern bridges being built today.  

So...a different style bridge and coastline than I am used to, with colors that are familiar, a simple yet complex structure...this makes me think about how making changes in my life involves a blend of old and new - actions, thoughts and people. Some parts I am comfortable with and some seem totally foreign. Exciting and intimidating! A bridge is also a visual of the effort and courage it takes to cross that structure and get where we want to go. 

If you have seen the "Big Little Lies" series, or read the book it is based on by Liane Moriarty, you will know that there are a lot of moving parts in the lives of the characters. Sometimes I felt like the characters and sometimes I wanted to be the Therapist and help those ladies wade through the struggles in their lives. There are some gritty parts in the storyline but they are life events that are common to many people. They all were just trying to get through this thing we call life. It is hard and full of difficult choices. (Granted, maybe those gorgeous homes and wardrobes would make someone feel better, am I right?) Seriously, we need others to help us get over those bridges in our life. I'm really not like the Therapist portrayed in the show (I talk a lot more than she does) but I feel she cared about her clients and I certainly care about each of mine!