Therapy and the Upside of Anger

Anger has a bad reputation because people equate feeling angry with doing angry things. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Feelings are not facts, nor are they a call to action. Feelings are not good or bad. They’re just comfortable, uncomfortable or neutral. The art of anger is to be so angry that you can hit someone in the head, but you don’t hit anyone, or cause any harm. Instead, you find a healthy way to express your anger, where nobody is harmed, including you. The art of anger is to experience it, and still make good choices.

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Buddha, Mara and the Illusion of Self-Doubt

I believe the path to healing lies not in rejecting the parts of ourselves that we find painful or distasteful. I believe to feel whole, we need to learn to love all of the parts of ourselves, including our wounded selves that have adopted these negative beliefs and patterns. The task, then, is to learn to love ourselves, not in spite of our wounds and perceived shortcomings, but with all of it. This path involves learning to offer ourselves the same kindness and compassion that we would offer to a wounded child.

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Self-Care Tips for Trauma Survivors

Surviving abuse or trauma presents unique challenges. There’s the emotional storm, with its ups and downs, maybe flashbacks, disturbing memories, the struggle to feel good about yourself, to feel safe.

Nonetheless, you can learn to feel good about yourself and your life.

So I’ve assembled some tips and tools to help trauma and abuse survivors along this healing journey. Anybody can benefit from these tools. But I think they’re particularly important for trauma survivors.

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Radical Acceptance - You're OK Today

What if we all decided today that we’re okay the way we are — not in spite of our imperfection of our lives, but with the imperfection of our lives. What if we could accept our imperfection without anxiety and accept ourselves just the way we are in this moment. What would that be like?

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Sexual Assault - Why They Don't Tell

Only in the last 30 years has childhood sexual abuse received the validation and attention it deserves. Now sexual trauma is in the public eye again, and with it, the discussion of why so few people disclose sexual assault and trauma. This new attention is a good thing because many abuse survivors never reveal what happened to them or get help healing the trauma. I hope this new attention will encourage more sexual abuse survivors to come forward, to get the help they need, to get the beautiful life they so richly deserve.

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Mindfulness to Relieve Anxiety and Stress

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on your experience in the present moment, without judgment – just being with what is. It’s about accepting ourselves, our feelings, our experience, and knowing that we’re okay. It’s easy to believe that just because we’re experiencing difficult feelings – anger, sadness, frustration - that something is wrong and we have to make a change.  But what if it’s alright to feel whatever we feel – pleasant or unpleasant – and we’re still okay, even if it’s uncomfortable?

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Questions and Answers About Grief - Demystifying the Process

In this culture, grief is a taboo. We don’t talk about death and dying and we don’t talk about grief. So I’ve noticed over my years offering therapy and grief counseling that people find grief mystifying, confusing and often frightening.

A lot of my work as a grief counselor has been to help people demystify their experiece, to help people recognize that grief is a normal response to loss, intense though it may be, and to find a way back to a balanced life. To that end, I’ve put together this Q&A on grief for anyone who needs it. Feel free to pass it on. You can also download a copy here.

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Child Sexual Abuse - The Warning Signs

Since my last blog, some people have asked about the possible warning signs that a child may be being abused or is at risk. Children and adolescents may show signs they are being sexually abused. No one sign means a child was sexually abused. But if several appear, it may be time to ask questions or seek help. It’s also important to remember that some of these signs can show up as a result of other stressors in a child’s life, including parental divorce, death of someone close, or other anxiety-provoking or traumatic events.

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Inspiring Courage, #MeToo and Shining the Spotlight on Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse was in the news again last week. A parade of remarkably courageous women testified in the sentencing hearing of former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted of sexually abusing scores of teenage and pre-teen female athletes over decades. Nassar also worked for the U.S. Olympic Committee, and his victims included Olympic Gold Medalists...Tragic though it is, this is not an unusual story...With the rise of the #MeToo movement, we’re beginning to witness just how prevalent this social epidemic really is.

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Clean and Sober Holiday Recovery Guide

The holiday season can be a great time to reconnect with family and friends. But the holidays can also be a stressful time for some people. This is especially true for recovering addicts, alcoholics and their families during the early days of sobriety. The office Christmas parties and family gatherings can present unique challenges for people navigating the stresses of early recovery and sobriety. So, I’m offering a Clean and Sober Holiday Recovery guide to help recovering addicts, alcoholics and the people who love them keep on track, minimize stress and enjoy the holidays.

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Ken's Holiday Survival Guide or the Twelve Ways of Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, etc.

Well, it's that time of year again. The holidays are fast approaching. You probably don't need me to tell you that. Personally, I enjoy the holidays. I also know many people find them stressful. I spend a fair amount of time in therapy sessions, helping people deal with the stress and anxiety of the season. So, I've put together a list of suggestions to help you enjoy the holidays without the stress and anxiety. I first published these suggestions a couple of years ago, and several people said they found them helpful. So I thought I'd pass them along again.

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic violence cuts across all social and economic groups. It affects married and unmarried couples, gay or lesbian couples, heterosexual couples, and where a couple is either living together or separately. One in four women and one in seven men have been victimized by domestic abuse, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). By the time you finish reading this article, about 75 people will have experienced domestic violence in the United States.

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Self-Compassion and Kindness for Healing and Motivation

So, here’s the question: If someone you love is struggling with depression, anxiety, falling short of their own expectations, would you offer that person compassion? Might you offer something like, “you’re doing the best you can, it’s ok. I’m here for you.” But what if you're the one who's having a difficult passage. Can you offer yourself the same compassion and kindness you would offer to anyone else? What would that be like?

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Ten Strategies for Self Care

I’ve always been a big proponent of self-care. And this is especially important if you are close to an addict or alcoholic.

The sad truth is that there is nothing we can do to get someone else to stop using drugs or to get sober from alcohol. We can’t control people’s behavior or the choices they make. That being the case, the question is no longer, ‘what am I going to do about this person.’

The real question is: How am I going to take care of myself given the way things are.

To help with that I’ve put together a list of Ten Strategies for Self-Care for families and friends of alcoholics and addicts:

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Breathe Easy for PTSD and Stress Relief

During a meditation retreat I attended, one of the teachers read a teaching in which the Buddha reminded us to "breathe easy."

It's easy to forget about our breathing. In fact most of us never think about it at all, unless we're having trouble with it. But if you pay attention to your breath, you may be surprised by how much it changes as your state of mind changes. You might also notice that you can change your state of mind by changing the way you breathe.

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Addiction and Grief - Hand-in-Hand - an Opportunity for Healing

Dave had been clean and sober for 17 years when his father died of alcoholism. He’d been through addiction counseling and psychotherapy. He regularly attended meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, stayed in touch with his AA sponsor and diligently took the necessary steps to stay sober. In fact, it had been more than ten years since Dave had felt the urge to drink or use drugs.

Dave's father was a maintenance alcoholic. He lived alone in a one-room apartment with a bed, a chair, a television and his collection of empty bottles. He drank himself to oblivion every day. Eventually, he drank himself to death.

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Codependence and Addiction - Break the Cycle

Are you making sacrifices for someone else’s happiness and not getting much in return? Are you so focused on taking care of other people that you are sacrificing your own physical, emotional or financial well-being? Are you afraid that people won’t love you unless you take care of them?

If the answer is yes to any of these, you may be codependent.

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It's Okay to Talk About It

My old friend Chris Primesberger posed an interesting question recently in a post on Facebook:

“Not a big deal,” Chris wrote, “but why can't we say someone died anymore? Passing is what someone does to overtake a slower driver on the freeway.”

I’ve actually pondered this question quite a bit. I’m a grief counselor, and I rarely hear people say someone has died. It’s usually that someone has “passed,” or “transitioned,” or “crossed over.” It seems that in this culture, we’ll do almost anything to avoid using the “d” word, like a name that must not be spoken.

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Mindfulness-based Therapy for Trauma and PTSD

Anxiety and other symptoms that accompany trauma and PTSD come in many forms - from manageably low levels of agitation to high levels of stress, intrusive memories, panic attacks and flashbacks that can make life feel unmanageable. Mindfulness can be an effective tool in trauma treatment to help manage these difficult episodes, and help sufferers learn to stay grounded and recover more quickly.

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