Why Taking Space Isn’t the Only Option For Cooling Off During a Fight

Many couples think that the best way to get through a conflict is to take space from each other to cool off. Unfortunately, taking space isn’t always an option. There are times when you need to make a quick decision, you’re stuck in the car together, or you are at an event where you can’t take space and staying connected is preferable. The couples in my practice don’t often realize that the words they use with each other are magical. Just as words can aggravate and disconnect you from your partner, they can also calm an angry partner and help them feel connected to you again. Do you know the magic words you can say to your partner that will calm them down and help them feel connected to you? Many people don’t know the words that they can say that will help their partner feel connected to them again, but those magic words are definitely worth figuring out with each other. The words that can help us connect again don’t have to be complicated or long. Something simple like, “I don’t want to feel this way with you, I want to feel connected,” will often work or, “I want you to know how much I love you and care about you. Simply stating, “I want us to feel connected while we talk about this,” can go a long way in moving you back to love. Speaking to what you want and how you want to be with your partner can often help you feel like you’re on the same team again. Try this exercise to help you translate your disconnection into what you want: love, connection, and Exercise: Take a moment and think about the way you want to feel with your partner. Is it joyful? Or maybe sweet and loving? Ask yourself: how do you want to act toward your partner? Imagine getting into an argument with your partner. Then imagine that you turn toward your partner and say, “I don’t want to be this way with you, I want to be _______. What would it take for us to get back on track again?” Alternatively: Find a time to sit down with your partner and talk. Ask your partner what they would like to hear that would help them defuse an argument. See if you can come up with a code word that means you are waiving a white flag of truce. From there discuss what you might be able to say that would help you connect with each other again. Read more »

It’s Not About the Content

Content versus connection Oftentimes when I’m working with clients, their central concern is a desire to discuss issues about work, money, children, or their sex life: aka content What couples often don’t understand is that it is very difficult to talk about any kind of content if you are not connected to each other. Trying to talk about important issues while you’re feeling defended or angry leads to fighting, and the content gets lost. The trick to getting through content together is managing the connection you have with your partner. As soon as you realize that you are disconnecting, try to pause and re-establish how you want to be feeling with each other. I’ve found that this is best done by naming how you want to feel and have your partner feel, not how you don’t want to feel. Securely attached partners know how to get themselves and their partner back to connection when they are feeling disconnected. Sometimes simply holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes without talking for one minute can actually reset your connection. Research has shown that looking into your loved one’s eyes can help release oxytocin (the “love hormone”) which can help you feel more connected, calm, and in love.   Exercise: Self-Inquiry If you find yourself often fighting with your partner around certain content, try this mindfulness exercise: Sit quietly and check in with yourself: How connected are you feeling with your partner right now on a scale of one to ten, with one feeling not connected at all and ten feeling totally connected? What is the content that you were trying to discuss with each other? What creates connection with you and your partner? Is physical touch something that brings you together? Do you like snuggling with each other on the couch or in bed? Does talking about your day hope you feel connected? Do you laugh together about certain topics, and does that laughter help you connect? What about sharing an extracurricular activity? What words could your partner say to you that would help you relax and feel more open? Exercise: With Your Partner  Find a time to chat with your partner about re-establishing connection when you are talking about touchy subjects and feel out of synch. Don’t try to talk to your partner about this while you’re already disconnected and angry, or in the middle of a fight! Find a time when you’re both calm, connected, and on the same team. Once you are sitting together, discuss how to create connection instead of talking about the content. Here are some questions to answer: What can you say that helps your partner feel connected to you? What words or phrases help you want to open up to each other? Does physical touch help when you’re talking about charged topics? When was the last time you felt really connected to each other? What was happening in that situation that helped you to feel connected? Are there activities that you engage in together that help you feel connected? How do you want to feel when you’re talking about these topics together?   Read more »

How Curiosity can Save Your Relationship

When your relationship is in strife it can feel like the world is falling apart.  We can feel even more alone, hopeless and seperate than when we are single.   However, when relationships are going well they can be the thing that bolster our lives and help us be our greatest selves.   The Dynamic: There is a common dynamic that I see over and over again in relationships.  It’s where one partner (Let’s call them “the Frustrated One”) starts lecturing or talking to the other partner (Let’s call them “the Impatient Listener”) in a critical and sometimes patronizing tone. It happens all of the time.  And I understand the frustration that creates this dynamic.  Maybe you’ve asked your partner a dozen times to do something, and they don’t do it.  Or you just don’t understand why they can’t do something, it seems so basic, such a simple thing to do, something a child would know.  So the frustration leaks out.  And sometimes it actually works; with voicing your frustration, the person actually responds for a while.  The Impatient Listener wants you to not be upset and so they agree to do the things you want them to do.  Except that it didn’t actually work because a few weeks later it’s back to the normal behavior again.  The Impatient Listener didn’t really want to do those things, or they agreed because they felt like a child in trouble and they wanted the angry parental tone to stop. This argumentative pattern is really destructive in relationships.  And you don’t have to keep repeating it.   How do you stop? Well, if you find yourself more in the Frustrated role, try speaking to your frustration rather than to what you are trying to change in your partner. 1) Name What is Happening: Begin with a statement like “I notice myself getting really frustrated about the chores and I’m not sure how to change things.”  Or “I notice we keep fighting about this same issue and I would really like to not fight about it.”   When you name what is happening, you step outside of the intensity of the moment.  You engage your cerebral cortex and move out of the fight/flight/freeze mode. 2) Curiosity Can Save You: Then ask some questions, get curious about what is happening with your partner.  Questions like “what kinds of systems do you think we could put in place to support this issue?”  “What are you experiencing around this?”, “what is your history of dealing with this kind of issue?” Getting curious about your partner’s experience rather than assuming you think you know what’s happening can be a huge way of disengaging an unhealthy pattern. Let’s say that you are more commonly in the role of the Impatient Listener.   1) Name What is Happening: Again, try naming the dynamic that you see playing out.  Try saying “I would really like to hear what you have to say but I’m having a hard time getting past the tone you are speaking in” or “I see that you are really frustrated, and I would like for this to not create friction between us.” 2) Then get curious:  “What’s going on underneath your hurt about this particular issue? What is hard for you about it?”  Again, curiosity is one of the most empowering tools for a couple.  Curiosity also creates a little bit of a gap between what’s happening and your experience.  It helps you witness the situation from a slightly wider perspective. Naming a dynamic and getting curious about it can totally shift how you experience a situation in relationship.  Rather than being the actors in a play, you become part of the audience that gets to witness and respond to what is happening. Want to learn more? Contact Sefora to sign up for a free introductory counseling session.     Read more »

But Can You Be Your Own Best Friend?

Sure you can Complete the hardest problem In the book And answer The trickiest equation. But can you Sit with yourself When you don’t  Know the answer And love Your own company? Sure you can Finish all Of your business Faster Than the average Jo. But can you Feel the awkwardness Between you an another When they cry And not run away? Sure you can Make money In the market With some clever New passing phase. But can you Be truly kind To yourself When you fail At something You long to achieve? Sure, You can impress Me and him, and them over there, You can make us laugh And wow us with your charm. But can you When faced with your most Loathing, embarrassing, snotty faced, bare naked self Be your own best Friend? Can you speak to yourself In such a way That lifts your face to the sky? That honors your humanity? Can you bring love and real acceptance To your most Vulnerable parts? Because when you do this You will know Deep in your bones That you Can truly Do anything. -Sefora Read more »

On Getting Fired

Getting fired is a lot like going through a breakup.  It can be devastating, relieving, shocking, really difficult, surprisingly easy or all of the above.  It shakes your stability and your routine. If getting fired from your job is in the devastating category, here are a few tips: 1) Remember that getting fired is like a death.  With death comes grieving and a lot of feelings.  Grieving typically has 5 stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.  You might catch yourself bargaining “If only I had just done this project on time then maybe I wouldn’t have lost the job.”  Or maybe you are in the stage of denial, which could mean that you are not facing the reality of how you will support yourself or get a new job after.  Allow yourself to grieve, forgive yourself and release any feelings connected to being fired. 2)  A lot of the suffering around getting fired is what decisions we make about it or the meaning that we attach to getting fired.  Like a bad breakup when someone says “I’ll never love again,” or “this was my one chance at love” we can feel like the job we lose was our only chance at doing what we want to do in life.  However, we can also make choices and decisions to learn our mistakes and choose something even better for us.  Practice choosing that this is an opportunity for you to come even closer to your dreams.  Practice believing that an even better job is around the corner. Learn what parts of the job you want to recreate, and which parts you want to make even better.  Like relationships, the next one is usually even better. 3) Getting fired is a huge opportunity.  It allows us to pause, take stock, and recreate our lives again.  Although sometimes we are tired of doing this or don’t want to do this, it is better to do it consciously than unconsciously.  Luckily, if you are fired you are often eligible for unemployment, which can help with the process of reevaluating and contemplating next steps.  (It can also sometimes allow for a much needed vacation or road trip!)  This time of transition can allow you to set your North Node or Career goal for the next 5-10 years.  It can help you become more focused and allow your career to be more actualized. 4) Practice self care and being an ally for yourself!  Like with any stressful time, it can be common for our Inner Critic or Super Ego to go buck wild.  We can start blaming ourselves and attacking ourselves for life going the way it has.  Because we are stressed, we might also forget to do the self care practices that keep us sane.  As you go through losing a job, take it as an invitation to step up your self care.  Be as kind to yourself as you can, and spend time doing the things that bring you joy and keep you sane.  Hikes in nature, exercise, time with friends or time alone, meditation, massage, baths, journaling, reading a good book, playing games or spending time with pets are all examples of ways that you can take care of yourself.  Remember that the Inner Critic is especially strong in times of stress.  Practice interrupting self attack and focusing on ways to grow and learn from this experience. Read more »

5 Ways to Determine You Are Under an Inner Critic Attack

Often when I am working with my clients it is clear that one of the major reasons they are experiencing suffering is because they are having an Inner Critic Attack. This part of the self has lots of names.  Traditionally known as the Super Ego; it also goes by the Judge, the Gatekeeper, the Critical Parent and many other names. In other words, the Inner Critic is a part of the self that is attacking another part of the self.  Now, normally we don’t walk around experiencing ourselves as having different parts. If we have a fairly healthy ego, we just experience all thoughts in our head as our own. The problem with this is that many if not MOST of our thoughts didn’t originally come from us. So it can sometimes be helpful to separate out the part of ourselves that is attacking us, and distinguish it from supportive voices that can actually help us change. When I first notice a client’s inner critic, my client is often not able to tell that they are having an Inner Critic Attack. So here are 5 ways you can tell that you may be having an Inner Critic Attack: 1) The Wagging Finger: One of the easiest ways to tell if you are talking to yourself from the Inner Critic is if you feel like someone is wagging a finger at you. The Inner Critic says things like “You really should have…”, “You knew better than to…”, “If you had just…”, “You are never going to get better at…” and “You are so disappointing.” The experience is that you are being lectured or admonished by someone, only that someone is you. This voice generally has a little (or a lot) of disgust and disappointment in its tone, and it is also pretty sure that you are never going to change. 2) You Feel “Bad” About Yourself: Many of my clients can’t identify the thoughts or inner voice that is attacking them, but they can tell that they feel “bad” about themselves. That is because the main feeling that the Inner Critic elicits is shame, but most people are not able to identify that they are feeling shame. If you are feeling “bad” about yourself, you are probably experiencing shame about one or many things, and under an Inner Critic attack. 3) You Feel “Not Good Enough”: Technically feeling “not good enough” is not really a feeling, but it seems like it is. That’s because when you feel shame, it often comes along with the belief or thought that you are not good enough. This is your inner critic attacking you for one or many things. 4) Your Body is Hunched Over: Many of us work with computers and sit in desks for work and have a little hunch to our shoulders. This is not what I’m talking about. What I am referring to is the way that your body collapses and hunches over when you feel bad about yourself. This is the body’s natural response to the feeling of Shame. Your eyes become downcast, your shoulders hunch over and sometimes your feet turn in. You feel the impulse in your body to hide or withdraw from people. This is a big sign that you are having an inner critic attack. 5) You are Withdrawing, or Distracting Yourself With Addictive Behavior: We withdraw from people or distract ourselves with addictive behavior for all kinds of reasons. One reason why people withdraw or engage in addictive behavior is because they are avoiding the shame that occurs for them when they are around others. This shame is often attached to an inner attack that is going on in the background of their mind when they are around other people. If you are withdrawing from others, or distracting yourself with addictive behavior, you may be having an Inner Critic Attack. Recognizing when you are under an Inner Critic Attack is one of the first steps towards ending the attacks. In the beginning though, it can sometimes be overwhelming to recognize how much you are under attack by yourself. Make sure you don’t attack yourself for attacking yourself!!! Begin to notice and separate the attacking/judging voice from other thoughts or voices that are more helpful. Stay tuned for ways to interrupt and alleviate the inner attacks! Read more »

20 Questions to Ask Yourself When You are Searching for Your Purpose

Many of my clients come to me unsure about what they want to do with their careers. They do know that they want to make a difference in the world. But they are not sure what they want to do, and how they will support themselves doing that thing. Here are 20 Questions you can ask yourself to get closer at identifying your purpose: 1) What (if anything) do you enjoy doing that you would do all day if you could? 2) Of the activities that you enjoy doing, what in particular is fulfilling about them? 3) What cause are you especially concerned with in the world? (examples: the environment, hunger, homelessness) 4) What skills do you have that helped you in previous jobs? 5) Do you work well in large groups, small groups or working on your own? 6) Are you self motivated and proactive, or do you do better with someone else directing you? 7) What did you fantasize being when you were little? 8) (continued from #7) What seemed exciting about that job or occupation? 9) What if anything would you teach? 10) What makes you happy, brings you joy or makes you smile? 11) Who inspires you the most (authors, teachers, mentors), and what do they do? 12) What is particularly inspiring about the way those people do their work? 13) What do you love to learn about? 14) What do people ask for your help with the most often? 15) What do people compliment you on? 16) If you were going to get a group of friends or acquaintances together, what would be the theme of the gathering? 17) Imagine that you are 90 years old and looking back at your life. You are deeply grateful and happy with the life that you have lived. What did you accomplish that you are the most proud of? What are the relationships and experiences that were of the most value? 18) If you had a large audience in front of you, what would you like to tell them and why? 19) If you had a dream come true, what would it be? 20) What would you do if you couldn’t fail? Know any other questions that are helpful to discovering life purpose? Comment here! Read more »

Expressing Grief Brings Us Closer to Life, In Remembrance of Luanne Blaich

Sitting in my office today with the midday sun streaming through the window, my eyes continue to be drawn to a small bouquet of white roses from the memorial service of my friend Luanne Blaich, held last night.  Their beauty is a perfect reminder of the amazing opportunity that Luanne’s death has been for me and many others.  Luanne died after a 3.5 year battle with Leukemia, in which her brave fight deeply humbles me. To speak about someone’s death as an opportunity is strange and somewhat awkward.  And yet, Luanne’s death was an opportunity in many ways.  It was an incredible experience to be a part of a community that held someone through their passing.  The friends and loved ones of Luanne created a container for us to sing, grieve and celebrate her as she passed out of this life.  We were able to honor the cycle of life, the great unknown and mystery of the universe, and feel all of the joy and pain of our humanity. The biggest learning I have received from Luanne’s death is that to grieve in community is to come back to life.  I am blessed to be a part of a community that knows that feelings are healthy and welcome.  We are able to laugh and then cry and then laugh again with each other.  No one tries to shush or stop the flow of another’s tears.  Throughout Luanne’s passing, we cried our grief, we sang our grief and we danced our grief.  And through this expression, I found a sweet joy emerge in me; A deep reverence for life, for the treasure and blessing that it is.   Through grieving her passing, I found myself alive in a way that before I was dead.  What a paradox that it is through honoring death, that those of us who are living can come out of a half state of walking death.   In grieving death in community, we actually become more alive. One of my favorite teachers, Joanna Macy, brings people together to express their grief about what is happening to our planet.  Something similarly emerges through that process.  Through expressing their grief and anger and fear together, people awaken to their love and reverence of this life.  That’s why she calls it “the Work That Reconnects”.  It reconnects us to ourselves, our souls, each other and to the world. Luanne Blaich was a beautiful woman who walked with grace and compassion.  She was one of the most generous people I knew in our community.  She was always available to help with whatever I needed.  I learned to say yes from her.  She was also one of the most authentically polite people I have ever met.  I know that politeness is something that we can sometimes get stuck in or that can limit our expression.  But Luanne modeled how politeness can be an expression of love and kindness. Luanne also knew how to hold a safe space for you to vent or express anything you needed to.  She held a container of sacred trust and would not gossip or judge you for what you shared.  Maybe that’s why in her death, we were able to bring so much of ourselves and bring all of our feelings to be expressed.  We all knew that she would love and accept any expression that came through. Luanne was a great teacher to many.  We will continue to express our gratitude for her life and our grief for her passing.  And in that expression, we will continue to awaken in our own lives.  Her life will be celebrated and remembered. And what is remembered, lives.     Read more »

Transforming Hopelessness- Tip of the week: Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know

Sometimes when I am working with clients they feel hopeless because they have identified that there is something that they don’t know how to do.  Sometimes this is a capacity that they haven’t learned (such as creating boundaries or sharing from their heart).  In other cases it is a practical skill that was never taught to them (bookkeeping, scheduling).  Sometimes it is just that the future is unknown, and they want it to be known, dependable. Here is a tip that can really relieve a lot of stress: There is great beauty and blessings in not knowing.   First of all, if you are able to identify something that you don’t know how to do, it  is a great opportunity.  If you know you don’t know something, you can learn about it from an expert.  Admitting that you don’t know something allows you to reach out to others that do know a lot about that thing.  There are a lot of experts out there and this is the information age, where a lot of expert information is free.  If you pretend like to you do know something that you don’t, you are not allowing yourself to learn from people who have a lot to teach you. Secondly, there is great freedom in the mystery of the unknown.  So many of us are brought up to pretend like we have all of our stuff together all of the time.  Allowing yourself to not know can be a huge relief.  It can actually free up a lot of energy that you have been using to “know it all”.  Not knowing can bring back wonder.  In this age when we wonder something, it is not uncommon for someone to say “let’s google it” to find out the answer.   Although the power of having that information at our fingertips is incredible, sometimes it leads to a lack of wonder and awe about life.  The world is full of incredible things that can amaze and awe us.  That amazement and wonder can be present when you don’t know something. It can lead to excitement for how things will unfold. So, let yourself try it this week. 1) Try not knowing and let yourself learn from an expert. 2) Try not knowing and see if you can feel the power and mystery of wondering how it will all unfold. Let me know how it goes! Read more »