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Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018!

As the end of another year approaches many people start to think about what they want to create for the coming year.  Looking back and reflecting on your last year will help you to move forward in the right direction. This is an important annual ritual for many of the following reasons:

  • In order to embrace the new, we must release the old. As we move forward in life, we need to let go of some things in order to have the space for new stuff to show up. Our movement forward can be slowed down by our loose ends.
  • Affirms learning.When we take time to review our key learning, it helps to entrench that learning within our brain. Repetition and reward help to strengthen neural pathways, and will increase the likelihood of creating healthy habits
  • Confirms direction. To get to where we want to go, we have to slow down and get our location to make sure we are headed in the right direction. As we move towards our dreams and goals, direction is often far more important than speed.
  • Chance to disrupt confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when we believe the world is a certain way and only look for evidence to support those beliefs. I hear so many people at the end of the year saying “Hope next year is better than this one. I can’t wait for this year to be over.” Is every year really that bad? Snap out of Eeyore mode and complete the highlights portion and see that great things also happened even if the year was challenging.
  • Gratitude and Law of attraction. Gratitude increases our overall joy and life satisfaction. The Law of Attraction states that we attract more of what we focus on, so focusing on our wins and being grateful for them increases our likelihood of creating more of the same.
  • Enhance your relationship with yourself. When we take time for ourselves, we affirm our value. We can move forward with more self knowledge, a deeper understanding of ourselves and deep sense of our own worth.
  • Consciously plan for your next year!Now that you have evaluated what’s working and what isn’t, what do you want your next year to be about?

Use these two pages as a guide to complete and celebrate the end of the year and create an intention for what you want in the coming year.

Love is Transformative

A great relationship increases our ability to love ourselves. It all comes down to the science of love, what most of us would consider an extremely intangible and subjective experience.

The parts of our brains responsible for love and attachment are regulated by each other. As a baby, I learn love through my connection to my caregivers, as reflection in their eyes. Dr. Sue Johnson, in her book Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships asks, “How does a baby know he is delightful?” The baby knows he is delightful because when he looks into his mother’s eyes, he sees delight.

While most of our love template is created when we are young due to the fact that our brain is most primed for taking in information at that stage, we continue to mold and shape the emotional centres of our brain through continued experience in relationship.

The pursuit of self-love is entangled with a loving relationship. I cannot change the template or the dial or filter with which I can love myself by myself. In isolation, my only framework for self love is what I have known, and may be restricted if I was raised by a parent with limited ability to love themselves, who were distracted or not always emotionally available

If I want to change what my self-love dial is set for, I can do that through the eyes of a lover. When I am accepted and loved and can see that in another’s eyes, then a part of my brain recognizes that and recodes my own brain.  Wes Angelozzi sums this up well:

“Go and love someone exactly as they are. And then watch how quickly they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered.”

I tested this a few years ago. I realized that I was withholding love from parts of my body, especially my stomach. So I asked my partner if he would rub oil on my stomach (which I hated people touching), while I did my best to be present and stay connected to him. He was amazing as he kept checking in with me to see if I was still present, and looked at me with kind loving eyes. I started to relax as I felt accepted and loved in that moment.

As I began to feel safer, I started to explore the edge of my fear. There was still part of me holding back from truly loving myself because I was afraid that my fat would jiggle and he would find it unattractive.

“Will you shake my tummy back and forth and jiggle my fat?”, I blurted, the courage leaving my lips before my brain had time to talk myself out of it. And so he did. My stomach moved back and forth and as it hit my thigh, making ripples there too. Neither of us pulled away, he just kept loving and accepting me with his gaze. I felt my fear dissipate and allowed myself to start loving the way my soft stomach moved back and forth.

That experience was one of the most vulnerable and freeing moments of my life. I went to the edge of my fear, sharing a part of myself that I did not love and I let someone else see that. My partner received what I thought was a terrible part of myself and did not recoil in horror, he accepted and loved me through it. My brain reset my self-love dial.

What happened for me in that moment is explained well in A General Theory of Love, a collaboration between Dr. Thomas Lewis, Dr. Fari Amini and Dr. Richard Lannon. “Those who succeed in revealing themselves to another find the dimness receding from their own visions of self.  Like people awakening from a dream, they slough off the accumulated ill-fitted trappings of unsuitable lives”.

Love is transformative. Love changes our brains. Our relationships help us to increase our ability to love not only each other, but also ourselves.

Christina Bianchini RPC, MPCC

Finding The Right Therapist For You

Finding the right therapist can sometimes feel like an auditioning process, and if you live in an area like Prince George BC, that has a limited number of local therapists, the process can sometimes be frustrating.

I have personally seen several different therapists during my lifetime, and can attest that not all therapists are equal (or were equally effective for me).

I have struggled with:

  • What I deemed as cold or uncaring or unsympathetic therapist (lose 5 lbs before next week’s appointment and you will feel better)
  • Not being able to understand the EFAP telephone therapist because of their strong accent (He was going on about “tissue hookers”…which took me 15 minutes to understand that he meant the “issue of who cares?”)
  • The therapist who told me I was fine and had nothing to be concerned about, when I felt empty and depressed.
  • Therapists who were more concerned about being right about their point of view and not listening to my real concerns. They tended to talk more than listen.

AND, I have had wonderful caring and warm therapists who were attuned to my needs. Who spent hours making me feel safe, seen and soothed. These were the therapists with whom I was able to do my best personal work with.

“Decades of research indicate the provision of therapy is an interpersonal process in which a main curative component is the nature of the therapeutic relationship (Lambert and Barley 2001)”

The therapeutic relationship (or finding the right “fit”) is an essential part of achieving positive outcomes in therapy. In fact, research indicates that the therapeutic relationship is twice as important as the specific techniques and exercises used in therapy (Lambert and Barley 2001).

So how do you find the right therapist for you? If you work from more of an attachment framework like I do, then the safer and more cared for a person feels the greater the outcome.

Here are some things to ponder when selecting the right therapist for you:

Warmth and Empathy

For some clients, the therapist’s office is the first place they experience unconditional positive regard. It will be important to sense that your therapist is warm, friendly and truly cares. They demonstrate the ability to really empathize, to see things from your point of view so that you feel acknowledged, validated and heard. This helps to develop increasing trust over time, and increase the likelihood that the client doesn’t feel alone in their struggles.

Congruence

Is your therapist a real person? You want the feeling that they are being genuinely themselves. The traits of being genuine include be open, honest and sincere, with the absense of phoniness or defensiveness. Therapists are human, and if they can own their mistakes and accept divergent thinking, this helps the client to do the same.

Interest

An interested therapist asks great questions. They are right there with you and gently ask follow up questions to help to deepen their understanding of you and the situation. Often these questions will open up other ways to see and think about a situation that supports the client to work through presenting issues.

Skill

You want to work with a trained and licensed therapist. This is important because licensed therapists are accountable to governing bodies in regard to qualifications, ethics, and ongoing training. This will allow you the confidence that they have received the appropriate training and are constantly upgrading their skills in the ever-evolving field of psychotherapy.

Specialty/Therapeutic Framework

Psychotherapy is a large field of work, and it is impossible to be great at all the different specialties. Just like you wouldn’t go to a podiatrist to deliver a baby, its important to seek a therapist who specializes in your concerns.

In couples therapy for instance, seeing a therapist who does couples work with out specific training is about 35% effective. Research done by Sue Johnson shows that Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples increases positive outcomes to over 70% (Johnson 2008).

The cost to see someone who specializes might be slightly higher or not included under your EFAP plan; however, the benefit is often fewer sessions and a greater chance of success.

Credibility

There is a saying among the therapy realm that you “can’t take a client to a place you haven’t been before”. If the therapist has a hard time connecting with their own thoughts and feelings, it will be difficult for them to authentically support a client to do so.

Credibility for me is about whether or not I am committed to my own ongoing personal work. A great therapist walks the talk and is committed to their own therapy and supervision.

You might know right away that a therapist is the right fit for you and sometimes it might take a few sessions. I want my clients to be as comfortable as they can be so that they get the results they are looking for.

At Repiphany Counselling we offer free 20-minute consultations on the phone and in person so that you can see if one of our counsellors are the right fit for you. Book your free consultation online now at http://repiphany.janeapp.com

Getting What You Need In Your Relationship

I’m not sure about you, but relationships 101 was never a class that I was taught in grade school. Prior to becoming a relationship therapist (and at times since) I find myself fumbling my way through, and not always getting what I want. We shame ourselves into believing we “should” know the right way to do relationships, when the only experience we may have is from watching our parents who are not always the most skilled themselves.
So let yourself off the hook and prepare yourself for an amazing relationship. One that is conscious, connected and loving.

This article is the first in a series of Relationships 101, because we could all use more skill in our relationships. I want you to know what to do when it does get hard, and I want you to spend time consciously creating the life you want with each other.

Let’s start with you. How good are you at asking for what you need?

One of the biggest misconceptions is “if they really loved me, they would know”. Well I have numerous ill-suited Christmas and birthday gifts to prove the contrary. Our partner’s job is not to be a mind reader. That puts all sorts of expectations on the other person, who isn’t likely to always get it right. Then you both lose; they are in trouble and you don’t have what you want.

If asking for what you need is difficult for you, here is a simple formula.

1. I Feel…

Start with how you are feeling. Anger can be quick to present itself, and know that it is often a primary defense emotion. Is there anything underneath the anger, like hurt, sadness, fear or loneliness?

2. When…… happens, I start to think….

Let your partner know what your head starts to say when they do a certain behaviour. This is often a place where our thoughts can take us to all sorts of scary places and sometimes create problems that weren’t even there to begin with.

3. What I need is….

What is it you need from your partner? Is it reassurance? A hug? Maybe it’s to be acknowledged and appreciated for your efforts?

Here is what it might sound like put together.

“I feel hurt and frustrated when you leave your dishes on the counter for me to put in the dishwasher. When I see that cup sitting there I start to think that you don’t care about me or what’s important to me. I need to know that my feelings matter and that I am important to you.”

As with all skills, give yourself and your partner time and patience to practice. If you struggle to get the words out, then you can begin by writing it out for yourself first.

Stop Attracting the Same Type of Unhealthy Relationship Q&A

Question:

I`m 36 years old and never been married. I want to get married and have an amazing loving relationship, and so far to no avail. It seems that in all the relationships I have had I tend to `lose` myself in them. When my last relationship ended, I thought that if giving was the key to a great relationship then he wouldn`t have left. How do I stop attracting the same type of relationships and finally find `the one`..

Desperately seeking partnership

Answer:

I believe that most people share your desire, to have a loving committed relationship. Getting lost in relationship is very common, especially in the early stages of dating…ahhhh the honeymoon period. I can`t eat, I can`t sleep, all I think about is THEM… and how dreamy they are… and this is a very normal part of courtship.  If however, getting lost means putting their needs ahead of yours, you send a message that who you are is not as valuable.

We all have beliefs about ourselves, and these are based on messages and experiences we have had growing up.  For example, giving seems to be really important to you. Without knowing more about you, I can say that often people who give a lot think that part of their value comes from what they do or give, not just for who they are.

Breaking these patterns of behaviour requires taking a closer look at oneself, to realize some of the conscious and unconscious beliefs, and then taking action to have a different experience.  For example, if you are dating someone who is frequently late, you might say this,

“I understand that traffic was bad and you were tied up at work, AND I want you to know that when you are late I feel disrespected and make up that you think my time is not valuable.“

This small step of counting yourself in from the very start will set a different template for the relationship, and you will know very quickly whether or not this person has values that match yours. I think often we are afraid to say something, or get angry. There is a place in the middle where you are both honoured, and either the other person will meet you there, or they may not be the one for you.  I do believe you can have amazing love in your life if you work on allowing it!

Food is not the problem

Food is not the problem…it’s the symptom of your problem. Those of us who use food to cope do so because it provides us with a temporary reprieve of dealing with the underlying problems.

The diet and weight loss industry are constantly focused on the food….and if food was really the problem then we would be successful, instead of suffering the pain of regain and relapse.

Going on a diet is like an alcoholic going to detox. It works for a while…its stops the drinking…however it’s solving the wrong problem. We are not looking at the reasons WHY we were using food (or another substance) to cope. So once life gets hard again, the one thing I know to make it feel better in the moment is to eat.

So, if you have tried diets or quick fix weight loss solutions and have not had long term success, you are not alone and it’s not your fault. You have been trying to solve the wrong problem.

I know the pain of being obsessed with food, eating, my body, how I look, what others think of me….. and the lure of a quick fix easy solution is seductive and enticing. I want that pain to go away, and I want it now. Even in the back of our minds when we know it won’t work long term, we convince ourselves that this time will be different. Anything to make the pain go away.

It can be scary to face our past, our trauma, our negative self-talk, our unmet attachment needs. I mean, isn’t this the very reason we have been eating in the first place? To avoid the feelings we think will cripple us? I understand. And, I also know that the only way through is through.  In facing the things we think will be too hard and painful we take away the control they have over us. Then we can start to live an authentic life based on creation rather than reaction.

Is Emotional Eating a Decision?

As far as being an emotional eater…Did I decide to have this thing? Did I DECIDE to use food to cope emotionally?

I don’t believe most of us ever consciously decide to become emotional eaters. Medically, there is a biological predisposition that some of us have to consume more food than others, and also the way that certain foods are registered in our brain and our bodies are different.

Many of us started reaching for food to cope at a young age. An age before the part of our brain that is responsible for logical thought processes has fully developed. These coping strategies were born out of emotional and biological needs to make it through circumstances that we thought we could not otherwise deal with alone. It was not rational, logical (or even conscious for the most part)…it was based on survival.

Ok, so maybe I understand that part. However I am no longer a young child. I have access to a fully developed brain and I can now take care of my basic needs, so my survival is no longer dependent upon others. Why am I still eating when I’m not hungry? Am I making a conscious decision to do this?

First of all, coping strategies used consistently over time can become strongly entrenched habits. We create a neural super highway in our brains that reacts instantaneously when we are triggered. This means that many of us are on autopilot when it comes to reaching for food. To me a decision implies a conscious choice.

So while you might not think you are currently making a decision to eat emotionally, you are also not making a decision to stop eating emotionally. It’s like being born with Type 1 Diabetes. You didn’t decide to be diabetic, and you can decide about how you treat yourself.

The first step towards consciousness is awareness. So a decision that you can make right now is to become more aware of what feelings trigger the compulsion to reach for food. One of the ways you can start this is to keep a feeling log. Each time you eat, log your feelings. Sometimes the feeling may be hunger, and sometimes not. The important part here is that if you want to get clear about how and why you reach for food, this is the first decision you can make towards taking control of your eating. By taking a moment to be mindful before you eat.

It’s not your fault. And you can do something about it now.

Online Dating and the Plus Size Girl

I wish it was true that fat people were not discriminated against. Unfortunately, a lifetime of experience and my recent foray into online dating has some evidence to the contrary.

It’s not a heckle as I walk down the street, or a refusal to be served in a retail store that obviously doesn’t carry my size. That is overtly rude, and while it has occasionally happened, that is not the type of discrimination I usually encounter being a size 18. No, for me it’s about being overlooked.

Take my recent experience on a popular online dating site that states that they find your perfect match based on your interests and personality. I had over 400 matches in 2 months, which is great, unless you look at the fact that less than 5% of them corresponded with me. That’s right. I am a loving, educated professional who is passionate about helping people, I have a wicked sense of humour, and I can hold my own in the looks department. Oh, and yes, I like to be active and work out as well. Based on the fact that we were “matched” based on common interests, values, etc…. my only conclusion is that at least 380 men within 100 miles of Vancouver think I am too large to be in a relationship with.

The reason I say I don’t think people are consciously discriminating against larger people is because we all have a filter with which we view life. That filter is made up of all of our experiences, our beliefs, and a lot of that comes from the media. If close to 60% of Canadians are now considered overweight, is that reflected in our media? This is also the same filter whose results have at least 20% of us believing that fit=slim. I know plenty of slim people who don’t exercise or take care of themselves.

This is not about being anti-slim or pro-fat. This is about the number of people who aren’t aware that they are actually filtering out an entire portion of the population based on their pre-conceived notions of who fat people are.

I can’t guarantee that I will always be heavy, or that I will be slim. What I do know is that I will always be a great person- fun, active and caring. My hope is that others will open their eyes and their minds to look past what they think they see.

What would you do if you could predict the outcome?

Excitement and fear produce the same physiological response in the body. So how do I determine if I am excited or scared? We will choose to feel excitement if we can predict the outcome. If I know that when I get on the roller coaster that eventually I will return safely to the platform, then I may feel excitement.

It is often when I am doing something that I have never done before (and therefore not sure of the expected outcome) that I feel fear and anxiety.

An amazing group of individuals in my last workshop (the Advancement of Excellence) decided to take on the Grouse Grind during the program. Many of those who participated had never accomplished this difficult hike before. There was tremendous support for each other, and no one was left behind.

I have heard people say that they will do “x” once they have the confidence and are ready to do it. The problem is that confidence comes from action, from doing. I can’t have confidence in something until I have actually done it. I am sure that if some of them had waited to hike the Grind until they felt “ready to do it”, that they would still be waiting.

I am incredibly proud of their accomplishment, and what I am more astonished by is what has happened since. Over half of them have returned to do it again, to beat their time, and some have done it multiple times! Once they knew the expected outcome (that they would finish) they had the confidence to do it again, to push their comfort zone and self-limitations even further.

It was because of this example of courageous individuals that I was inspired to take on the Great GG myself. I have lived in the Lower Mainland my entire life, and I had always been scared of the hike, thinking it was too tough, that it was only for people in great shape. I decided to take on the principle of expected outcome. I was nervous the day before, and I chose to believe that no matter what, I would complete the hike. This really changed things for me. Was it tough? Absolutely. Did I have a few choice words along the way? For sure. Did I ever think of turning around? No.

So what would you do if you made the decision to take action and predict the outcome?

Christina Bianchini is a Registered Professional Counsellor and workshop facilitator.