Your Partner is NOT a Psychic!

How Mind-Reading Expectations are Ruining Your Relationship

The scene is not uncommon: You think you asked your significant other to load the dishwasher while you were out. In fact, you thought you agreed upon a complete to-do list since you’re working all day today and she’ll be home. But you didn’t. In fact, this isn’t the first time you thought you communicated to her what you wanted, but you didn’t. So when you get home, the sink is still full of dirty dishes, the laundry isn’t done, the dog desperately needs a bath, and you just worked a 45+ hour work week. You. Are. Livid.

Or maybe the scenario is more like this: You totally thought your partner understood how important this company party was to you. It’s a chance for you to introduce the most important person in your life to your boss and co-workers, hopefully creating more of a social connection between you and your co-workers.  Besides, everyone’s significant other will be present. However, two days before the event, you remind him that his best dress shirts are at the dry-cleaners and he replies, “Why would I need a dress shirt? I’m going to the football game on Saturday with the guys.” Cue disappointed tears.

Based on the previous examples, what is it the underlying cause of the frustration/hurt?

  • My partner didn’t anticipate my needs, which must mean that my partner doesn’t love me.
  • My partner doesn’t respect me enough to help me, so my partner doesn’t love me.

Society, through TV sitcoms, romantic comedies, social media, and yes, Disney movies, have ingrained us from a young age with notions of “how relationships should work.” So many of us have bought into the lie that our partners are supposed to “get us if they love us”; that if your significant other really loves you, they should “know you by now” and just inherently know what you need/want. The problem is, unless you and your partner are super-/meta-humans with the gift of telepathy, an uncanny similarity to each other, or sleuth-like observational skills, your partner, at best, can only guess what you need or want. Sure, they’ll get it right some of the time. But why leave such an important part of your relationship to chance?

Whether it’s as simple as wanting a back massage, needing help with the kids, attending social obligations, receiving more attention in the bedroom, or craving gestures of affection, we CANNOT expect our significant others to read our minds. When we do, (“oh, I just wish he bought me flowers once in a while!” or “I wish she would take an interest in bungee-jumping”), we are creating an alternate reality in which our partners can never fit, while dangerously exalting that fantasy above our loved ones. We are setting them up to unknowingly disappoint us while simultaneously positioning ourselves to engender resentment, bitterness, and a cycle of critique and criticism. Eww…

So great, I’m already stuck in this cycle…what can I do? Start by COMMUNICATING your needs to your partner. I know it sounds oversimplified and cliche, but it cannot be overstated. Will it be awkward to tell your partner what you need from him/her? Maybe. Does it take practice (and mountains of tack)? Every single day. Could it save your relationship? Now that’s a possibility that’s based in reality!

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Courtney is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at The Holistic Mental Health Clinic in St. Petersburg, FL and lives with her not-so-telepathic husband. If you would like to learn how to better communicate your needs to your partner, or learn how to enjoy a more satisfying, fulfilling relationship, you can contact Courtney at 727-520-9447 or by email.

The Brain is Not a Self-Driving Vehicle


Picture this: It’s a busy evening in the city and you just called for a taxi. You open the door and slide into the back seat and expect to be greeted with the usual, “where to?” from the cab driver. Except you look up and there is no driver. Uhmmmm…excuse me?!  This isn’t a self-driving vehicle — you literally just watched the driver open the door and step out, with the meter running, when you got in. Bizarre, no? No more strange than what we allow to happen to our thought patterns on a daily basis.  Brain science is leading to greater understanding that just like the heart is an organ designed to beat, the brain is an organ designed to generate thoughts.  The problem is: your brain could care less what it thinks about!

We are meant to take the wheel. And just like anything else, it takes time to learn to steer this runaway train (am I the only one who has felt this way?).

When we allow our thoughts to drive, we often find ourselves in sketchy back alleys, on streets with potholes, taking pointless detours and multiple right turns, and stopping by every fast-food restaurant and liquor store on our way to our destination…which is what? Our brain, unless purposefully directed, does not inherently have goals in mind!

We were meant to be in the driver’s seat, taking control of our thoughts, and evaluating the thoughts our brain is generating.  I know… sounds exhausting, “I have to think about what I’m thinking about?  Yikes!”  Yet think about the alternative: do you want to continue just being a passenger (dare I say prisoner) to the organ of your brain?

While “training” our brains does take some effort to produce a physical change (new neuropathways), your future self will thank you.  Now you may think I’m talking distant future, a year or two from now, but I’m not!  I’m talking only 30-90 days from now. As with any new physical training, it is best you feed yourself well, get the right amount of sleep (7-8hrs), and healthy blood flow to your brain through exercise to set yourself up for success.

Now for the good news!  Once our brains have been taught to steer to the beautiful scenic drives, you can start to relax and enjoy the drive more and more.  That’s right! New neuropathways are formed where they previously weren’t, and with practice and time, the brain starts to follow these new roads automatically. That’s not to say that you can go back to snoozing in the backseat, but it does help to know that those anxious thoughts may not always plague you.

 

Courtney is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at The Holistic Mental Health Clinic in St. Petersburg, FL. If you would like to learn how to put your hands on the wheel and learn to steer your brain you can contact Courtney at 727-520-9447 or by email.

Your Essential Holiday Survival Guide: 3 Ways to Maintain Sanity, Hold onto Your Peace, and Thrive During this Holiday Season (Election-Year Edition!)

Allow me to paint the festive picture for you: The day is December 25th, exactly 46 days since the presidential election. Your extended family is gathered around your exquisitely decorated dining room table, that you’ve proudly compared to an Anthropologie mall display window. You know your manners. Never politics or religion at the dinner table. But Uncle Bob JUST WON’T STOP going on and on about gun rights, email scandals, wall-building, and did I just hear him say something about internment camps?!

Your grandfather is 76 years old and in the latter throes of dementia. He can’t help but comment on your brother’s new girlfriend’s weight gain, suggesting a bun-in-the-oven as he passes the rolls. You can feel the heat of her embarrassment from across the table and silently curse your decision to place the sweet, naïve fawn so close to a social grenade.

Your mother is fussing over your youngest sister, the world traveler who just won’t settle down and have a family. Normally, mom compares your life’s accomplishments to hers, unknowingly (?) causing a rift and further resentment between you and your sister. Today, gratefully, she refrains from bringing you into the mix and merely laments not having enough grandchildren to spoil.

And to top it all off, you just can’t shake that same feeling that seems to crop up every single year around this time: the melancholy, the heaviness, the fog, the inherent sadness that you just can’t define – that “meh” feeling that leaves you both emotion-less and with a surge of emotions just below your 2nd-glass-of-wine “cool” exterior.

Here are my top 3 essentials for surviving the holidays with grace and style:

1. Rein in Your Expectations

Take a step back and ask yourself, “are my expectations stealing my joy?”  

Practice gratefulness for things just the way they are.  Often the imperfections of the event become the laugh out loud stories you can enjoy together for many years to come.

Less truly is more. Identify areas where you can cut back:

  • If you love sending out Christmas cards, go for it!  If the thought of buying, addressing, licking and stamping cards makes you break out in a cold sweat, don’t feel bad about skipping the annual Christmas cards this year.
  • Delegate tasks.  For many of us, asking for help is a learned skill.  Take a deep breath and use this holiday season as your first steps toward new learning.
  • Take a few precious moments to rejuvenate yourself for your next round of tackling that to-do list. Create a quiet space for yourself (even if it’s the bathroom for 5 minutes), and practice mindfulness.

2.  Form and Maintain Healthy Boundaries

Practice assertive communication and consider this truth: often saying no to someone means saying yes to yourself. Remember your etiquette and don’t expect others to remember theirs (Did someone say “throwback tip #1?!?).

Zoom out, as opposed to zoning out; go big picture and rise above the fodder.  Ask yourself, what is the experience I want to have in this moment; what is the memory I want to create?  Hold onto that vision, then think and act accordingly.  Even if not all of your family and friends follow, you can rest assured that you acted wisely.   Be firm, yet kind. Model the golden rule.

3.  Remember that You’re Not Alone.

If this time of year seems to always be accompanied by a dense fog that blankets all of the festivities like a heavy snow, you’re not the only one. Instead of seeking relief in another cup of Uncle Eddie’s eggnog, seek the company of others.

  • Talk to friends.Talking with friends has real health benefits. In one study, women who did not have at least one close friend were found to have increased  psychological dysfunction such as anxiety, depression, sleep and eating disorders.  So call a friend and make some time for the two of you to be healthier together!
  • Talk to strangers. This may seem weird and counter-intuitive, but that’s the point!  Most of us think that talking with strangers will be of no benefit to us and that we are probably intruding, interrupting, or otherwise annoying the other person.  However, research shows us that when we talk to strangers, both us and the other person benefit. So, be that odd person who strikes up random conversations with someone in line at the supermarket. That “random conversation” may be just what someone else needs to make it through a season that often reminds so many of us of family conflict, drama, and loss.
  •  Talk to your Higher Power (Or whatever name you call Him or Her). Studies document the health benefits to having a spiritual connection.I like to focus on the personal, intimate connection.  You don’t have to go anywhere special or get dressed up.  You just have to open yourself up to have an intimate conversation.  Reflect on your life and the times you can acknowledge that you were not alone; perhaps it was the times that you were most stressed out and frustrated, seeing only one outcome. Maybe you thought you knew how things needed to be resolved, but come to find out, the way the situation unfolded was actually quite fine.  Invite Spirit into your life in a meaningful way that only a “heart to heart” conversation can bring.  You will be healthier and happier for it.
  • Talk to a professional counselor.  The holidays can be an especially difficult time for many people despite their best intentions.  Neuroscience is showing us that people who seek the assistance of a professional are getting more than just feeling better; they may even be getting a healthier brain!Finding a professional you trust and feel comfortable talking with can lead you to a happier and healthier 2017.

 

Courtney is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at The Holistic Mental Health Clinic in St. Petersburg, FL. You can reach her at 727-520-9447 or by email at courtney@thmhc.com.

Accepting the Broken Pieces

potteryI was at a party last weekend when a close acquaintance approached me about the self I present on social media and asked how I had come around to loving myself. I laughed, thinking that her riot-sarcasm targeting my insecurities and self-worth issues was beyond genus humor, (hey, I’m all into self-deprecating humor, especially when it comes from other people) until I realized she was quite serious. So much for irony being dead.

I say a lot of things to other people that I need to hear for myself. And I think, just maybe, it’s a small way I’m learning to accept and internalize some deep-seated self-acceptance. That’s a far cry from the “loving myself” piece I’m trying to obtain, but it’s a start.

For the better part of this past year, I have led a group of precious and patient people in a yoga fusion class that ends with a meditation piece. I’m utterly terrified to be in crowds, so their patience comes in handy as I repeatedly stammer through the microphone and mix up an elbow for a knee or reverse my left and right. (Am I the only one on the planet who gets completely and absolutely stupid when nervous?! Natural selection would’ve counted me out years ago if it hadn’t been for antidepressants and caffeine!). But during that final meditation piece, I find myself channeling the person I want so badly to become. I sit watch as they are reclined in savasana, fully surrendered to a few moments of serenity and guided meditation. They are vulnerable, and I am both the watchdog and the shepherd. In that moment, I am self-aware, content with the person I am, and in that acceptance, able to move out of the way so that other people can obtain peace through my gift.

So back to my friend with the ironic sense of humor. After the awkward moment of stammering through an apology for not taking her seriously while simultaneously trying to describe my very strange, possibly self-harming sense of humor, I said: “I’m working on that every day.” Had I had the foresight, I would’ve followed that up with, “I’m realizing that I can’t fully love others until I learn to love myself; that I can’t expect to have patience with others until I extend that patience to myself, first; and I certainly cannot accept all of another’s darkness and insecurities without first learning to accept the broken pieces in my own life.”

But how do I even begin to love myself?  Here is what I’m learning to practice and I invite you to join in.  Relax and take a rare moment for yourself.  Take in the following thoughts and feel what it feels like to allow yourself to let go of unnecessary stress.

Let Go of Perfectionism.fb_img_1472519971348Photo credit: Courtney Parker Tiner of Brave Monster Photography

The problem with perfectionism is having unrealistic expectations…of yourself and others. When those expectations are not met, disappointment occurs. When internalized, it can become depression. When externalized, it can become resentment and further relationship problems. Combat perfectionism by learning to voice your expectations and set realistic personal goals. Practice mindfulness in the midst of chaos. Notice things out of place and learn to leave them there. Give grace.

Stop Comparison Games.

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Photo credit: Courtney Parker Tiner of Brave Monster Photography

My creative outlet is photography. As such, I “follow” tons of other photogs on social media to challenge myself. But some days, instead of it presenting a helpful challenge, it causes me to nearly want to put down my camera forever, thinking that I’ll never reach that level of technical proficiency, or have enough time to travel to such-and-such place. It’s defeating. While there is something to be said about learning how to not allow other success stories to discourage you, it is also imperative that you learn what topics, people, pictures, etc. trigger you to respond negatively to yourself. The best thought to have here is “Another’s success doesn’t take away from my success rather it is just an example of wonderful success! There is enough success for everyone to be successful, including me!”

 Be Grateful.

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Photo credit: Courtney Parker Tiner of Brave Monster Photography

Gratitude often involves looking in the rear-view mirror and acknowledging how the past has shaped the present. Keep a gratefulness journal. Pray instead of worry (thank the Divine, the Universe, etc.) and remember Spirit hears how you feel. Verbalize your “thank you”s more to the people around you.

Do Hard Things.

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Photo credit: Courtney Parker Tiner of Brave Monster Photography

Yeah! Everybody’s favorite! NOT!  Yet in order to reach anything worth having we have to face this one. Your passion and purpose may lie just beyond the threshold of fear. Yep, you too may find yourself twisting into a human pretzel while wearing a Britney Spears-eque microphone, giving posing cues to a crowd, with fear-sweat trickling down your back. Good for you – your chutzpah is showing! *wink*

 

Courtney Parker Tiner is a Florida Registered Intern at the Holistic Mental Health Clinic. She can be reached at Courtney@THMHC.com or by calling 727.520.9447

How Breast Cancer Caused Me To Glorify Life!

breast cancer pic of Kara

By: Kara Daniels, LCSW

I had breast cancer at 31 years old. How could this happen to me? I work out often, quit smoking 7 years ago, eat healthy and thought I was healthy. I was in shock and terrified. With much research, doctors appointments and self-exploration of what was the best choice for me, I had made my choice to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction. Read More How Breast Cancer Caused Me To Glorify Life!