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25

Seeking Happiness

Posted by Collaborative Counseling
Happiness

The Perception of Happiness

So happy! That’s what one of my Facebook friends posted one day. I couldn’t help but wonder…okay, what? She never elaborated.

Have you ever had moments of complete happiness? I have. It is so elusive, fleeting and simple. Just as quickly, our mood can change, the happiness gone.

It seems that oftentimes it isn’t connected to an event. That would be just too simple. But instead it’s a feeling of peace, contentment, and the joy of being alive.

What Is Happiness To You?

Clients are asked to state their counseling goals in writing when entering therapy. Just to be happy, is frequently a goal. It’s our job to operationally define that for them, clarify their expectations for themselves, for others and for the universe. Sometimes it’s figuring out what is in our control and what isn’t, how to take better care of ourselves, or how to recover from a devastating experience. Some of us have chronic conditions and problems that make it hard to be optimistic about life.

In “The Happiness Project” Gretchen Rubin reports that current research shows that “genetics account for 50 percent of the tendency toward happiness; life circumstances such as age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, income, health, occupation and religious affiliation account for 10-20 percent; and the remainder is a product of how a person thinks and acts.”

As a therapist, this research reinforces for me the idea that people can boost their own happiness just by how they think about themselves and their life. Counseling is an opportunity for guidance and support through those critical decisions that determine your experience in life.

So the comment “So happy!” may have more to do with my friend’s perception of reality than an actual event…might be worth thinking about!

Learn how our therapists can help you uncover your optimism and find what makes you truly happy at: https://www.collaborativemn.com/meet-our-team

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20

What Leads People to Cutting?

Posted by Collaborative Counseling
Teen Stress

Research estimates that 80% of cutters and those who self harm are trying to regain their emotional balance. There are a couple of factors commonly seen in those who cut:

1) They tend to be more sensitive and emotionally reactive.

2) They often feel invalidated by their environment.

Let’s break these two apart to make them more understandable.

Sensitive and Emotionally Reactive

People who cut seem to be more sensitive than others and they tend to have much stronger reactions to the feelings they experience. They also seem to take longer to recover from strong emotions than most. Others will often describe them as a “drama queen”, “overemotional” or “overly sensitive”. This strong emotional reaction makes them vulnerable to acting in a way that is either impulsive or can be desperate to soothe him or herself.

Invalidated by the Environment

This means they do not feel understood or heard. Validation involves using empathy to make sure the other person feels heard and understood. To validate, we accept the other person’s experience as they state it without judging or helping problem solve. Often with emotionally reactive people we can get reactive ourselves instead of  trying to make them feel better or helping them to solve the problem.

These two factors combined will often leave the person struggling to find a way to feel in control, particularly of strong negative emotions. Cutting thus becomes a tool to manage painful emotions because it soothes just as drugs and alcohol can.

For more information on how to help someone who cuts, visit http://collaborativemn.com/dialectical-behavior-therapy/

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17

Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention

Posted by Collaborative Counseling

Recently, there has been a spotlight on sexual assault in the media. This is an unprecedented moment in time highlighting just how prevalent this issue is in our society today. With movements such as “me too” leading the way, many survivors have found the courage to come forward and tell their story while bringing much needed awareness to the issue. While we are making strides in the right direction, we still have work to do when it comes to confronting and ending sexual assault and the stigma that comes along with it.

What is Sexual Assault?

The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) defines sexual assault as: “sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim.” Some examples of sexual assault are:

  • Attempted rape
  • Unwanted touching
  • Forcing a victim to perform sexual acts- this can include both physical and psychological pressures such as threats or manipulation
  • Rape (forced sexual intercourse)

Who is Affected by Sexual Assault?

Both males and females experience sexual assault. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men are survivors of sexual assault. Young women are especially vulnerable. Almost 80% of female victims are under the age of 25 when they were first assaulted. Additionally, most victims know their perpetrators. People such as a family member or an intimate partner, can be perpetrators as well as an acquaintance.

What Can I Do?

First, it is important to remember that sexual assault is never the survivors fault. Knowing the steps to take when you feel something isn’t right is key. When you see a person at-risk of sexual assault, RAINN suggests taking the following steps:

  • Create a Distraction- try to interrupt the situation to give the person a chance to get away and to a safe place.
  • Ask Directly- speak directly to the person who may be at-risk asking questions like “Would you like me to stay with you?”
  • Refer to an Authority- find a neutral party with authority such as an RA, security guard, bartender or call 911 if you are concerned for someone’s safety.
  • Enlist Others- find someone to go with you to confront the situation or someone who knows the person you are concerned about.

If you suspect someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault there are some things you can do. Remember that it is important to avoid judgement and to listen. Simple phrases such as: “I believe you” “It’s not your fault” and “You are not alone” offer validation and support to survivors. Know that the trauma from the assault can be short-term or long lasting, every survivor responds differently. Be patient and encourage them to seek support but realize that is their decision to make.

We can all do things to prevent sexual assault, even if we are not able to directly step in to prevent it. Even a simple action such as offering a safe ride home from a party could prevent an assault. The biggest and longest lasting change can only happen with a shift in culture and our collective way of thinking about sexual violence. To learn more about sexual assault and what you can do to help, visit: https://rainn.org

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13

If your partner has betrayed you through cheating or an affair, you may be experiencing flashbacks, excessive worry and memories. Here we will discuss what flashbacks and intrusive memories are and some ideas around how to overcome them.

Following the discovery that your spouse has been cheating, it can be a difficult feat to begin to overcome the thoughts, anger, hurt and feelings associated with this type of betrayal. Some betrayed spouses report flashbacks and memories related to an affair.

Things that can trigger flashbacks include spending time with your partner who cheated, romantic sounds, love stories, not hearing from your partner and sometimes they can just come out of the blue when you least expect it.

Being betrayed by a loved one can often be traumatic. Traumatic experiences can be followed by intrusive thoughts about the event such as images, thoughts and memories. Sometimes even images from the imagination can become intrusive.

If you are struggling to overcome the discovery of an affair, here are some ways you can work to overcome thoughts and memories that are interfering with your daily life:

Be present

Practice simple acts of working to stay in the moment. Be cautious to not escape through food, alcohol, drugs or other avoidance tactics. There are many different ways to practice being mindful and in the moment including yoga, breathing, and meditation. Even working to just do one thing at a time while focusing all of your attention on that task will help you to be present and more mindful.

One simple exercise to get you out of a flashback is to focus on your breathing for 5 breaths. Notice the air coming in and going out, notice how you feel, try to focus just on the act of breathing.

 Journal

Write down things that you are thinking and feeling. Journaling is a very effective tool to help you deal with your negative emotions and to help you to let things go. The act of writing can help people to think of ways to deal with things and can even lead to new perspectives or self understandings.

By taking time to process through your feelings, you will be able to move through them more quickly than if you try to suppress or ignore them. Give yourself permission to write down all of your thoughts and feelings without censoring – this is for you.

 Anticipate triggers

Pay attention to what thins trigger flashbacks for you and try to find ways to initially avoid these triggers. When your healing has progressed more, work to develop coping skills for managing your flashbacks. As with any anxiety-provoking thing, eventually you will want to work to expose yourself to your triggers so you can move forward. It is okay initially to avoid situations or experiences that may trigger your flashbacks.

Ride the wave

Some triggers will be impossible to avoid and some flashbacks will just come out of seemingly nowhere. For these I recommend “riding the wave” to do this you will experience the emotion you are having while imagining it wash over you and away from you like a wave. Sometimes we resist emotions, however by riding the wave you often end up more able to move forward from your emotion and flashback.

Be kind to your self

Forgive yourself for not catching on to it sooner or for any mistakes you are blaming your self for. Try to do things that you enjoy that will help you to get out of your thoughts.

Pay attention to doing the small things that will care for your mind body and soul. Eat a healthy and balanced diet, try to exercise for at least 20 minutes a day, take a class about something you want to learn, read a book, try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night, etc… Do things to help you feel good about your self.

Don’t bring others in to it

Sometimes our urge can be to talk with others when we are hurt or struggling. Often it is good to talk with someone about emotions you are struggling to process, however with infidelity there can also be negatives to bringing others in to it.

The cautionary tale here is that if you decide to forgive your partner, your friends and family may not be as quick to do so. Sometimes these can lead to awkward relationships or even the loss of friendships. Be cautious not to bring others in to it, especially if you may stay with your partner.

See a therapist or counselor

If you feel the need to talk to someone, we recommend meeting with a therapist or counselor to process your feelings. Therapists are trained to help people process through difficult things. Sometimes it is best to talk with someone completely outside of your situation. In addition, a counselor will be able to provide you with a safe environment to process your feelings and thoughts without judgment and will be able to help you develop tools to move past it in the best way for you.

You may consider doing individual counseling, couples counseling or both. Either of these formats of counseling can be helpful in processing through an affair. Counseling can help you learn new ways of coping with the betrayal and resulting loss of trust. It can also help you decide if whether you want to continue in the relationship.

In summary it is important during this time that you focus on taking care of yourself and to learn ways to manage your emotions and flashbacks through healthy coping skills. If at any point you find yourself struggling to move past your flashbacks or intrusive thoughts, seek professional help. Knowing when to ask for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. To learn more about our services visit: https://www.collaborativemn.com/counseling-services/couples-family-therapy

Please note: This article is presented for information only and is not intended to substitute for professional therapeutic advice.

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