Blog | Tips and Tools

Dozens of articles. Improve your lifestyle now!

Happy couple looking out at the water

Relationships: Hard Work or Adventure?

Successful relationships are a Work in Progress

Has your relationship become stale or filled with constant conflict? It’s probably because it’s stopped growing.

Do you even look at your partner anymore? Or if you do is it only when you’re mad? Relationships stop growing when we think we know everything there is to know about ourselves and our partner. If you’re feeling bored, lonely or frustrated in your relationship then it’s an indication that growth and progress has stopped.

Let’s change the word ‘work’ to Adventure and Curiousity.

The truth is, you don’t know everything about yourself, so how could you know everything about your partner. They probably don’t understand themselves fully either. Few people do. And when you’re truly okay with that it can become exciting and an adventure to find out more.

Why would I want to? I can hear you thinking….

Because thinking you know everything feels safe..Yes safe can be good… except that to make a relationship safe you have to make it fit into a box. It’s safe from change but it’s also limited from growth. Feeling safe is enticing until it becomes boring, suffocating and lonely.

Being Curious means actively learning to understand yourself and that is called Differentiation.

Differentiation in simple terms means being okay to be different and letting others/your partner be different as well.

Here’s an interview with a couples therapist Ellyn Bader talking about Differentiation in Relationships.

I think a lot of partners have the misperception that they’ll lose their relationship if they differentiate. There is a fear of really showing yourself as deeply, as broadly and as expansively as you might.

Defining Differentiation in Couple Relationships

I define differentiation as the active ongoing process of a person being able to define their thoughts, their feelings, their wishes and their desires to one another and to be able to tolerate the partner doing the same thing.
When people are afraid of differentiating, they are afraid if they show their authentic self and the other one doesn’t like it or doesn’t agree with it, that they’re going to end up in a big fight or they’re going to end up with the other person leaving. When that’s true, they don’t show themselves very well to each other.

Why Relationships Fail

When you look at why relationships fail over the course of time, one of the core reasons that relationships fail is due to a lack of differentiation. Without differentiation, relationships get stale. Interactions become repetitive and partners end up bored or lonely. They end up bored because the relationship isn’t growing and it isn’t changing, or they end up just competing with each other and being really angry and really nasty to each other. That’s one of the reasons that relationships fail.
Another reason is the re-triggering of old trauma. Partners over time trigger and re-stimulate either old trauma in each other or also they do hurtful things in the here and now to each other that can be very traumatic. Either way, with the lack of differentiation or with trauma, people need skills and capacities in order to manage themselves well in a primary relationship.

The most stuck relationships are those where each person wants to keep the other unchanging. They remember how they were when they met and they want that to last forever.
Then they don’t explore or push each other to grow. They don’t take risks or try new things. It becomes a very, very narrow way of living in the world.

Differentiation is the route to aliveness and expansiveness, to authenticity and vulnerability, and resolving conflicts and handling not liking each other at times.

Most of us have learned to define ourselves in terms of what we do and spend little time understanding our inner workings.

If you’d like more aliveness in your life whether you’re in a relationship or not find a way to challenge your norms. Start questioning your default behaviour and try doing something different. Look at your partner with different eyes as if you’ve never seen them before.

If you have any questions I’d be happy to help. Or check out some of my other blogs with tips and suggestions.

Excerpt taken from The Couples Institute Blog Differentiation Blog by Ellyn Bader

Stress and anxiety management. Take control and breathe.

Stress Can be Good for You

Stress and anxiety are aspects of our lives that aren’t going away very easily.

Even so, you’re more powerful and in control than you think.

It may seem that stress controls you because it’s more powerful. But it isn’t, you’re letting it.

Stress as a Helpful Tool

You’ve already been using stress unconsciously as a tool to cope through uncertain times. Now use it purposefully to gain more positive results. Stressing or worrying about an outcome or experience makes us feel like we’re taking action. This then feels like a bit of control instead of sitting back and accepting the situation. Yet we’re unaware of this ‘choice’.

You’re habitual actions, like ones that come from stress and anxiety, are from habitual thoughts. When you purposely choose your thinking you can change your habits.

Try it out…

EXERCISE 1:  Set aside 15 minutes out of your day to bring up all the worries and upsets that are currently affecting you. Write them down with the main thought and worst case scenario. Eg. worried about speech/afraid I’ll freeze and look stupid, unsure about asking for money/afraid to lose the friendship or job etc. Then finish with a question of curiousity (not looking for the answer). For example: Is that true? (that I’ll freeze or lose the job?) Who knows if that will happen or not. Do I have options if that happens? or any other question that works for you to open up the possibilities.

Get comfortable with purposely allowing your worries, stresses and fears into your mind. Take the action of acknowledging them to get clarity instead of allowing them to over run you.

After doing this for 5 days write a comment on how you feel. Did it make a difference?

Stay tuned for more exercises to learn to use your stress and anxiety to help instead of harm.

 

BEING IN LOVE

Love is such a difficult, almost impossible thing to define.

Is it just something that some couples are lucky enough to have?

Glennon Doyle Melton comes to this question herself and defines it beautifully in her book ‘Love Warrior: a Memoir

Is love, not a feeling, but a place between 2 present people? A sacred place created when 2 people decide it’s safe enough to let their real selves surface and touch each other. Is that why it’s called ‘in’ love.. because you have to visit there? And was I unable to grasp it because I was trying to understand it with my hovering mind and love can’t be known that way? Can the place ‘in love’ only be experienced and traveled to? Maybe the cost of being….. someone that thinks about love and analyzes love and admires love from a distance is that I cannot be in love because I don’t go there. I stay removed. I have somehow decided that if I’m not truly present I can’t be hurt by people. But what if I can’t be loved by them either?

Early in life we can decide to ‘separate’ from being present in our body because it’s not safe. Either because of physical abuse or because we’ve decided that who we are isn’t okay, good enough or loved. From that point we live ‘outside’ of ourselves or so deeply inside that we can’t connect with another. It’s not safe. We could be rejected or hurt like before.

Glennon in this powerful memoir distances from her true self finding solace in bulimia, alcohol and sex in order to ‘get’ the love she feels is missing.

Finally coming to realize that the only way to finally feel love is to ‘reunite’ with her body. Make a truce. Face the fears of being rejected. Because the cost of not healing this is losing her husband, children and any kind of happiness in life.

A recommended read.

Relationship Stress. Communication and Anger Management

Thinking of leaving your relationship? Read this…

Relationship stress is hard

But that daily relationship stress is nothing compared to the pain and changes you’ll go through with divorce or separation. It’s a misinterpretation to think divorce is easy judging by the rising rates. You’d think it’s as simple as finding the best recycling for an old car stereo or laptop. No!! It’s not!! Not for a lot of people.

Where did we get the idea that relationships are disposable?

(Stay tuned for the new blog)

So if you’re thinking of leaving your relationship or marriage this article will help.
Learning about all the pain, changes and, thankfully, eventual growth that you can go through with divorce and separation will leave you better prepared to take that step.

Note: there is one swear word at the beginning of the article. If the word offends you please blink quickly and continue reading.

What Nobody Tells you about Leaving your Spouse.

Liz Coleman RTC - Surrey Counsellor

Your Goal for Happiness and Success Starts Here – Part 2

Our goals and what we want can get confusing. Which is often why we end up not fully satisfied with the outcome.

Take the weather as an easy example, when it’s cold we want it to be hot and then when it’s hot…..well you know. It seems that asking for one thing means giving up another. Which is why when working with goals that it’s best to focus on the experience of having, being or doing that goal rather than what it looks like.

BRINGING YOUR GOAL INTO THE PRESENT 

One of the great things I learned in counselling school was the Feeling Goal. Shout out to my school Clearmind International. I recommend their training and personal growth to everyone.  When they asked me for a goal in the first days I’m sure I groaned audibly. Ugh…making goals only made me anxious. I couldn’t get around my ‘reality’. I was blinded by the seeming impossibility of ‘how’ the goal would be reached instead of just reaching. That’s fear mentality!! Then they, those wonderful teachers at Clearmind, asked “How would you feel if you had that experience?” That question changed everything.

HOW THE FEELING GOAL WORKS

The Feeling Goal clarifies exactly what you want to experience from a multitude of possible outcomes and brings the experience of your goal from the future into the present (which is where our happiness lies).

When you’re thinking of something you want like a goal you’re usually looking into the future but at the same time you’re experiencing the lack of it in the moment.  What you’re saying is “when I get that house I’ll be happy” (but I’m not happy right now). Instantly your body will react with tension because lack brings up Fear which creates the experience of anxiety and stress. Switch your thoughts to how it would feel to have that home, relationship, job etc.. and you are literally experiencing your goal in your body here and now. And that feels good. The reason this works so well is a secret….. which I’ll share… your body doesn’t know the difference between past and future it just experiences based on what you’re thinking. So what you’re doing by feeling your goal is bringing it into the now like self-hypnosis.

This negative self-hypnosis isn’t a new thing for anyone who’s felt stress and anxiety. Those are the fear thoughts about the future being felt in your body. And sadness and guilt are thoughts about the past. Same kind of self-hypnosis just the difference of a closed, defensive, Fear state rather than a open, Loving one.

WHAT TO DO?

Now that you know the secret you can practice daily awareness of the thoughts you’re choosing. Deep breathing and meditating will help while you practice the Feeling Goal  as often as possible and intentionally create the feeling experience in your body of what you want.

Breathe…How would it feel to have what I want?… having that success would feel exciting and energizing…  then allow that feeling to strengthen in your body as you breathe in and out. Guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.

Now you are consciously choosing your goal and specific experience of life in the present and for the future. No longer does your habitual fear get to control you. You have the power to choose your happiness and success.

WHAT IF IT’S NOT WORKING?

Persistent negative thoughts about yourself or others can block your ability to experience the full feeling of your goal. In this case past trauma, mistaken beliefs or negative stories about yourself are needing to be healed and transformed first before full benefits can be experienced from the Feeling Goal process.

 

To explore this further I, or your friendly counsellor, can help. You will be amazed at how relieved you’ll feel just sharing your experiences. A counsellor is a neutral third party to help you see what’s stopping you, validate the successes you have made and explore your opportunities.

Call 604-809-8947 now to find out more. Or Click to find a time to talk.

 

Liz Coleman RTC Couples Therapy

Reconnect with Your Partner- An Exercise

THE 15 MINUTE EXERCISE

15 minutes?..Yes that’s all you’ll need to reconnect with your partner again.

And what happens when you feel connected? Your anxiety and stress goes down, you sleep better, work better and feel happy. What’s there to lose?

The exercise is simple but, like anything that requires open expression, it’s uncomfortable at first. Not to worry, you’ll soon reap the rewards and feel more relaxed.

This is a great exercise to use on its own as well as between counselling sessions, it speeds up progress.

Click the link below to find out more

The-15-Minute-Exercise.pdf

The time spent with your partner is sacred. Holding and keeping someone’s trust requires attention but when you do you’ll find someone to lean on who has your back.

Good luck and have fun.

Your Goal for Happiness, Peace and Success Starts Here – Pt. 1

Your Goal of Happiness Starts Now Your Goal of Happiness Starts Now Your Goal of Happiness Starts Now

OUR CHOICES CREATE OUR EXPERIENCE

All our choices are based on the information we have and that’s made up of what we’ve learned and experienced in the past. It’s a mix of emotions and facts. But even cold hard facts can be distorted because, as we are meaning making machines, we’ve learned to judge everything and slot them into ‘good’ or ‘bad‘. In essence creating an emotional decision. And so often our judgments of ‘good’ are based on avoiding discomfort or with fear that something bad will happen otherwise. To make decisions to reach your goal it’s important to recognize and choose the alternative to the fear based choice. And that would be basing a decision on walking towards something that enlivens and empowers me rather than running from discomfort or fear of lack or losing. I use the terms Fear or Love to make it easier for me discern what to choose.

I ask myself what will I gain rather than what will I lose.

THE DAILY REPETITIVE LOOP..Changing perspective with Liz Coleman RTC www.thespacesbetweencounselling.com

Without the awareness that comes from introspection and meditation we’re living an habitual, repetitive loop day in and day out. This is like insanity, choosing the same thoughts, choices, feelings and actions to create your days yet always hoping for a different result. Unfortunately, most of the decisions that come from this insanity loop are from a place of Fear. ..which then creates your reality. That’s why STRESS AND ANXIETY are such a constant in our life. The fear of lack or losing rules us.

To try and change our experience we’ve mistakenly learned that changing our behaviour will change our thoughts and experience. But no.. it’s often the other way around. Changing your behaviour may temporarily change your experience, like moving to another country. But left to the robotic, repetition of your habitual mind you’ll be right back to the same feelings, thoughts, choices etc. Then voila… same experience as before just in a different country.

YOUR EXPERIENCES TODAY ARE BASED ON YOUR GOAL AND DECISIONS FROM YESTERDAY

Looking at where you are today… what fear based decisions have you made that are keeping you from your goal of Happiness, Peace and Success?

Coming soon Part 2 of YOUR GOAL FOR HAPPINESS, PEACE AND SUCCESS STARTS HERE. I’ll explore how to recognize the fear based choices and start choosing from a loving state of mind.

 

For personal and private exploration of this topic your friendly counsellor can help. Find one you feel comfortable with to gently step into your story with you. You will be amazed at how relieved you’ll feel just sharing your experiences. A counsellor is a neutral third party to help you see what’s stopping you, validate the successes you have made and explore your opportunities.

Call 604-809-8947 now to find out more. Or Click to find a time to talk.

Continue to Part 2

EXPAND YOUR LEARNING…

Find out more about personal growth or counsellor training at Clearmind International 

More information on the spiritual study of the Fear or Love thought system click A Course In Miracles

Read more

Liz Coleman RTC

Not Happy? Not Unhappy? .. You’re in the Comfort Zone

The Comfort Zone can be like the Dead Zone when you’re neither Happy nor Unhappy.

At first escaping to comfort isn’t all bad it’s helpful. Like a reward, we’re happy and feel relieved with the break from the anxiety and stresses of life. But when escaping becomes the place you live from... you are in the Comfort Zone.

The reward and happy feeling of Facebook, gaming, TV or whatever your escape, eventually wears off. It always does. Then you risk becoming caught in your comfort zone. If you don’t drop the activity to find something new the need for the happy feeling will force you to just do more of it. Longer periods of TV watching or longer, more often Facebook sessions etc.

You’re left feeling unfulfilled.

Neither happy nor unhappy.

Do you want a different experience?

The first step is to sit in the ‘need’ to escape. When you notice your urge to watch tv, have a smoke or check your phone stop…. notice your feelings and thoughts … take 5 deep breaths. Make the activity more conscious rather than an automatic behaviour. You’ll feel more in control and have taken power back to live the life you want.

Next step is to try something new. That something that’s been niggling at you but you’ve always found excuses to avoid. Follow your desire to learn or do something new.

Feel the discomfort of challenging yourself and the aliveness that results.

You don’t have to risk your life to get out of the Comfort Zone just take a step and stretch.

Remember comfort will always be there if you need a safety net.

Just take notice if you start living from there.

Find out more about Goal Setting to really give the boot to the Comfort Zone.

Help! I can’t stop my Bad Habits

When Eating, Drinking and other behaviours become Bad Habits

Sometimes the normal, healthy behaviours we engage in every day become out of control default behaviours, creating problems such as stress and anxiety. Unhealthy habits can be sneaky, starting with an innocent ‘reward’ for having a bad day and leading to becoming the ‘go to’ in an attempt to make yourself feel better. When this happens you can feel powerless to stop it.

Bad Habits and Inner Demons

Common Bad Habits:

  • Eating too much, or not at all
  • Watching TV or movies
  • Checking Facebook, email or surfing
  • Alcohol, smoking or drugs/medication
  • Ranting to friends, gossiping
  • Shopping
  • Work, Exercise, Sleep, Sex

In some cases, daily behaviours become default behaviours and bad habits that you use as a way to cope and distract yourself from feeling the underlying stress and anxiety. It may be your reward or ‘go to’ you’ve done all your life or it may be something new. Chances are you’ve done ‘something’ all your life to avoid feeling.  That’s what these default behaviours are for, to numb and comfort so you don’t feel the upset or hurt underneath. When you try to alter the behaviour, you are not getting to the root cause: your feelings. The feeling underneath may have started innocently but became huge and menacing after being hidden and avoided for so long.

Clients will often share that if they start crying they’ll never stop, or they fear if they let the sadness come out they’ll fall into depression like a deep hole. The feeling has become big and ominous. I’ve heard others call it their Inner Demons. However, the truth is that feelings are feelings, and the menacing monster was created using your own imagination.

Facing the Feelings

The FIRST STEP is to recognize that your behaviours are causing a problem, (often it feels like “Help I can’t stop”when some behaviour is out of control) and that you desire a different experience (feeling calm, at peace and in control). Much like a personal goal, this recognition can help you when things get tough.

I feel …

Now I want to feel…

The SECOND STEP involves manifesting that goal feeling in your body. When did you experience that feeling (sharing with someone special, at a performance or receiving praise and acknowledgement)? Where do you experience that feeling? For example you may want peace, and peace feels like a warm sensation around your heart and chest; relief may feel like lightness in your shoulders. Create a habit of breathing and recreating this feeling every day. Eventually this becomes normal, and you recognize the stressful feelings sooner before they cause problems.

The THIRD STEP occurs when you catch yourself engaging in some of these unwanted behaviours. Create some space between your stress or anxiety, and the default behaviour. When you recognize you are stressed, breathe and give yourself a moment to feel before acting on the impulse. Do not be discouraged if you recognize the stress and behaviour after you’ve eaten, checked your phone or turned on the TV. This is the perfect time to remember your goal feeling and breathe into it. Ground yourself by closing your eyes and putting your hand on your stomach or looking into someone’s eyes. This will bring you into the present where you can check in with yourself to see what you’re feeling. Post reminders to breathe deeply so as to create a habit.

The FOURTH STEP involves getting to know these feelings you’ve been hiding from. These apparent Inner Demons are beneficial. They have something to teach you and can help you find more joy and peace in your life. Write down the thoughts and feelings as often as you can. Open up and share your fears with someone you trust. Revealing the fears behind the bad habits will lessen the intensity of the default behaviours and the need to numb the feelings.

Soon you will be able to enjoy these daily behaviours again without feeling out of control. You will decide whether the reward will be food or alcohol, or the positive daily habits you’ve created to manage your stress and anxiety and avoid numbing.

The One Thing for Dating and Public Speaking

What do dating and public speaking have in common?

One thing.

It’s this One Thing that separates the good speech from the great and a 1st date into a possible 2nd.

I learned this One Thing in dating a long time ago. I was on a first date with a guy and I thought he was so cute and wanted to see him again. But he didn’t. Hm what happened? As I was reflecting back on the date looking at what I did and said I realized. Oohh I was so focused on myself and worried about what he was thinking of me that I couldn’t pay attention to what he was saying and finding out who he was. I assume it was for him like those moments when you’re talking to someone and even though they’re looking at you their eyes look vacant and glazed over. You know they’re not hearing anything you say but are thinking about … what they’ll say next or maybe what they want for dinner. Sigh. I probably looked very much that way to him. Looking ‘not ‘there’. No wonder he didn’t want a 2nd date.

Working through Toastmasters I realized the same thing was happening when I gave a speech. I was worried about what I was saying and if they audience liked me or not. Then I read an article by Ian Cunliffe talking about this One Thing that will help your speeches. And there it was … the same thing I’d learned on that date so long ago… or thought I’d learned. The One Thing was the direction of my focus. Focusing inward rather than out. Worrying about what I’m doing rather than being ‘present’ with the audience. Focusing out and stepping into their shoes to speak to and  connect with their experience. What brought them here? They’ve taken the time out to come and listen to me. I appreciate that.

I’d been giving that same consideration and focus to my clients and I hadn’t seen how it could help with speaking and, of course, in everything I do. The whole point of communication is to connect not just give our point of view. To connect we have to consider the others world and situation and get curious.

I know not everyone will like me and that’s okay but my goal is to use this One Thing and give consideration and curiosity to all I meet.

Happy couple looking out at the water

Relationships: Hard Work or Adventure?

Successful relationships are a Work in Progress Has your relationship become stale or filled with constant conflict? It’s …

Stress and anxiety management. Take control and breathe.

Stress Can be Good for You

Stress and anxiety are aspects of our lives that aren’t going away very easily. Even so, you’re more powerful …

BEING IN LOVE

Love is such a difficult, almost impossible thing to define. Is it just something that some couples are lucky enough to have? …