catalyst

Failure to Launch: Fostering Confidence and Freedom

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You may recall the American Romantic Comedy “Failure to Launch” in 2006 that describes a 30-something man struggling to leave the nest. This concept isn’t foreign when describing young adults’ struggle with achieving the next milestone of independence: moving out of their parents’ house. Dr. Jean Twenge writes extensively on the trends of stagnation and delayed pursuit of independence in both the Millennial and iGen generations.  But what can we do to support confidence and the pursuit of autonomy and freedom in our young adults?

 

An Uphill Battle

For many young adults, American society has given them expectations that they can do anything they want, be anything they want, follow their dreams, and thus, never settle for mediocre in their identity, career, or relationships. For the adult child, this becomes a rude awakening when facing competitive college admissions, fighting for quality jobs, and budgeting to live on their own with the rising cost of living. Dr. Twenge speaks extensively about the ways young adults are set up to fail—highlighting loneliness, a lack of self-esteem, and elevated anxiety and depression as some of the challenges of our 18-35-year-olds.

Recognizing that these challenges may lead to stagnation and loss of confidence, it is important to foster hope for these generations, both in themselves and the communities they cultivate that can help them achieve success. Below are some ideas for young adults to support their transition to independence from their parent’s home:

  1. Identify communities of support-By finding and strengthening connection to communities that feel like-minded and relatable, you can shift from family of origin focus to relating to others and developing other spheres of connection outside the home.

  2. Explore other's experience-Knowing that you are not alone in how you feel and the struggles you face can make the transition less lonely and more hopeful by learning form other’s experience and strategizing your next move.

  3. Build confidence-Engage in self-discovery by identifying areas where you have strengths. Identify what’s most important to you through values exercises at Lifevaluesinventory.org and explore career strengths and direction at youscience.com.

  4. Positive reframes-Practicing your ability to rewrite negative thoughts or experiences can be a powerful tool in creating confidence and hope of independence. Reframing negative thoughts as temporary or your best effort can inspire movement and hope. To learn more, consider individual therapy where a professional can teach you these skills through Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy or identify a gratitude practice that can shift negative thoughts daily.

 

Parenting Parameters

Fostering hope and confidence is not exclusively the job of professionals. The support of parents can also be crucial to the confidence of a young adult. Here are some ideas for parents to encourage the exit from the nest:

  1. Support structure-parents’ ability to provide rules and expectations in the home can be an important incentive for young adults to exit and live on their own. When we think of the movie “Failure to Launch,” the parents made it too easy and convenient to stay in the home, thus stifling any urge in their son to leave. Structure can support expectations of a young adult’s transition from the house in a supportive way.

  2. Remain consistent-being consistent and true to your word as a parent is just as important now as it was when your young adult was a child. Predictability can support your young adult in building respect for your position in their exit from the home by identifying a timeline for your young adult to move towards independence and freedom.

  3. Provide encouragement-with change comes anxiety. Remember to be encouraging, positive, and reassuring towards your young adult that you are still a part of their lives and care about them as they make this transition. This will allow them to feel comfort rather than anxiety or grief at the loss of daily contact and connection offered in your household.

In whatever ways one accesses the confidence to pursue independence, knowing there are loving, caring connections between the person and others is a vital component of their success. There is no rule book for how to move from failure to launch to thriving in freedom. In a generation that feels more lonely and anxious than ever, community connection and meaningful interactions can help. We can support the next generations in their success though encouragement and kindness, and in this effort, we all win.

 “Change is hardest at the beginning, messiest in the middle, and best at the end.” Robin Sharma

Exploring the Enneagram: Relationship Reinforcement

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I can’t handle it when others are upset. I throw myself into work to avoid emotions. I want to be left alone. No one understands me. I want everyone around me to be happy. Can you relate to any of these statements when it comes to how you operate in your world? Does this describe your reactions when relating to others? If so, there is good news! The Enneagram is a personality test that not only looks at your strengths and weaknesses, but also allows insight into relationships with others in order to strengthen compassion and connection.

 

Personality Test Popularity

For many of us, we’ve been exposed to personality tests in the past, whether it was part of high school psychology class, a component of starting a new job, or a viral quiz on social media. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was the go-to personality test for several decades starting in the 1940s when exploring a person’s extraversion, intuition, and decision-making skills. The Enneagram has been around almost as long, making an introduction in America in the 1950s. Praised as a tool for deeper awareness, self-understanding, and self-discovery, The Enneagram classifies personality into 9 categories or types, identified below by The Enneagram Institute as:

  • Type 1: The Reformer

  • Type 2: The Helper

  • Type 3: The Achiever

  • Type 4: The Individualist

  • Type 5: The Investigator

  • Type 6: The Loyalist

  • Type 7: The Enthusiast

  • Type 8: The Challenger

  • Type 9: The Peacemaker

The Enneagram also claims that a person’s designation as one of the nine types is solidified in childhood based on traumatic or impactful experiences that reinforce behaviors that support feelings of safety and security.  For example, someone who tests at Type 2, The Helper, may have a core belief that “I am good and ok if I help others.” The authors of several Enneagram books, Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson further describe each person’s capacity to equally develop into any one type, however the type that ultimately defines us is reinforced by our environment at a very young age. Another example that can highlight this concept is the child who is praised for every positive performance or good grade, allowing them to feel pride when sharing their accomplishments at a young age. In continuing to seek that valuable praise to feel positively about themselves, they might find themselves pursuing various accomplishments throughout their life in a series of patterns of achievement, categorizing them as Personality Type 3, The Achiever.

 

Put it to the Test

So now that your curiosity is peaked, why not put it to the test and see for yourself? You might have an idea of your type just from the names above, however there are several options that can clarify your results.  The Enneagram Institute (enneagraminsitute.com) has an online test that can define your type and any other connections to other types based on your responses to a series of questions. A faster option can also be found in a free App called EnneaApp, that can allow you to explore your type and read more about what the results mean in shortened form, ideal for those who want family members and loved ones to also test and identify their personality types. The Enneagram has risen in popularity due to its use in various contexts to help people better understand themselves and others.

  • Premarital Counseling

  • Individual and Family Therapy

  • Workplace Efficacy & Human Resources

As you can imagine, clarity about your type and The Enneagram type of others around you can help you rise to your fullest potential, including strategizing on projects in the workplace or connecting at a deeper level interpersonally. Therapists value the Enneagram due to its ability to start conversations about similarities and differences between people, as well as its ability to provide opportunities for growth and self-discovery.

 

Discovering Depth

Self-discovery with the Enneagram reflects the effort you put in the results and your ability to have an open mind. Designation of your personality type includes implications for balance and wellness by looking at the positive characteristics (which will please you) and the negative characteristics (which will make you want to hide). In other words, you will have positive traits that you feel fit your personality very well, and negative traits you will want to reject due to the painful accuracy of things you want to keep hidden from others due to embarrassment or shame.

Allow me to illustrate. If you are found to be a Type 8, The Challenger, you, like all the types, have both positive and negative characteristics. Some of your positive characteristics include having a powerful vision of your future, being vocal about your goals to get results, getting others cooperation in those goals, and being described as passionate.  So far so good right? You sound like a force to be reckoned with. On the other hand, your negative traits include speaking over others, a ‘my way or the highway’ mentality when challenged, being described as bossy and overbearing, and being intimidating when expressing anger. As you can imagine, balance between positive and negative characteristics is important in exploring shifts to support connection with others both personally and professionally as well as workplace success.

 

Enneagram Enhanced

The Enneagram can go much deeper into passions, difficulties, relationships, team work, and more. Just look for trainings in your community and online to move into further discovery after you identify your type or the type of those you value. By beginning your journey into The Enneagram starting with your own reflection, you will uncover unlimited possibilities regarding how to successfully connect with strengths in yourself and with others! 

 “The point of it isn’t to just be a type, but to use the awareness of our type as a kind of entry into a more full-bodied humanity and a greater and greater capacity to embody and flow with all the different qualities of our humanness.” Russ Hudson

Upper Limit Problem: Smashing Through our Self-imposed Glass Ceiling

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Remember when we explored if we’d quit something before it could go wrong? How you’ve ended a relationship before you could get hurt? We identified these as examples of self-sabotage, which can strike at any moment when we feel that things are gaining momentum in a positive way.  But what happens when you achieve the success you’ve always wanted and now, instead of joy, you feel doubt and dread, fearing it is too good to last?  Because of this fear, perhaps you desire to remain safe in your career trajectory, creating your own glass ceiling because it pays the bills and supports stability.  You choose comfort rather than taking risks that would allow you to reach your fullest potential.  Gay Hendricks calls putting on the breaks when our success has exceeded what we thought it could as The Upper Limit Problem, described in detail in his book “The Big Leap.”

 

Signs you have an Upper Limit Problem

It’s understandable that we struggle with success in thinking it’s too good to be true. Awareness of our reactions to success and the resulting negative thoughts and unconscious self-sabotaging behaviors can be considered a first step in recognizing the problem and identifying viable solutions!  Here are some signs that you might be experiencing an Upper Limit Problem:

  • You avoid taking risks

  • You can’t slow down

  • You can’t enjoy your successes due to fear and doubt

  • You prevent change in wanting stability

  • You love your comfort zone

  • You feel uncomfortable with too many successes at once

  • You get stressed and sick when experiencing rapid growth

 

Smashing through your Upper Limit Problem

For many, illness in response to stressors or fear of success in a big part of their Upper Limit Problem. So now that you know what you are experiencing, what can you do about it? Here are some ideas that might help:

  • Identify positive affirmations such as “I’m right where I should be.” “I’ve worked hard for this success.” “I deserve good things.”

  • Engage your supports. Talk to others you trust about the stress you are feeling in the face of your achievements.

  • Practice mindfulness. Engage in mindfulness and meditation practices to reinforce positive vibes and refocus.

  • Slow down. Take breaks for self-care and rest up to prevent illness.

By recognizing the signs of your Upper Limit Problem and exploring possible responses, you can remove self-sabotaging behaviors and fully surrender to your success, allowing yourself to enjoy your accomplishments and continue to thrive in the possibilities of your future.

“The goal in life is not to attain some imaginary ideal; it is to find and fully use our own gifts.” Gay Hendricks

Imposter Syndrome: Sabotaging Success

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Have you ever quit something before it could go wrong? Ended a relationship before you could get hurt? Stirred things up out of boredom? These are all examples of self-sabotage, which can manifest when we don’t feel we deserve good things or when we fatalistically think all good things must come to an end. With Imposter Syndrome, you may experience all of these thoughts and feelings in response to having an internal battle with yourself and have a fear of success! More specifically, when achieving success, your doubt in yourself may show up as a fear of being exposed as a fraud to others.

Image courtesy of caitlinhudon.com

Image courtesy of caitlinhudon.com

The image above captures the perception that others know more than us, which can lead to self-sabotaging behaviors or crippling self-doubt, resulting in delayed or stunted progress towards your goals and creating unnecessary anxiety in various areas of our lives. So, what can we do about it? How do we embrace our knowledge base, success, and self-worth?

 

Discovering Strengths

For many of us, it’s a fine balance between self-confidence and ego.  Our society has taught the youngest generations to not speak too highly of themselves out of concern of being called cocky, egotistical, entitled, or self-centered. When celebrating strengths, it is important to break down some of these barriers and embrace what we do well.  Some ways you can do this include:

  1. Asking Family and Friends: By engaging in rewarding conversations with those that know you well, you can listen for language that describes your strengths.

  2. Floating Back: Recalling compliments or positive feedback from others in the past, including work situations, can help pinpoint times when you were recognized for your strengths.

  3. Take a Test: The popularity of personality tests and other self-assessments continue in helping people find their strengths. Consider the following tests in your self-exploration:

  • Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) – looks at how you interact with others, thinking vs. feeling, and more.

  • Enneagram – Explores how you relate to others and what you contribute to relationships when balanced or unbalanced. Check out the free EnneaApp quiz in the App store!

  • Big Five Factor Personality Test – explores your openness, agreeableness, neuroticism and more.

  • Locus of Control – take the self-assessment to explore how you are internally or externally motivated to do things in your life.

  • Values Inventory – explore what is most important to you with a values inventory. A free, online version can be found at http://www.lifevaluesinventory.org

 

Encouraging Growth

Now that you’ve found your language and skills that demonstrate your strengths, it will be important to continue learning about yourself to silence the Imposter Syndrome’s little, nagging voice that states you are a fraud. Perhaps you challenge yourself to grow through additional schooling or training. Or measure your progress through achievement of short-term goals. Or perhaps you identify a professional who can serve as an accountability partner in your quest for confidence. Such professionals include:

  • Coaches

  • Consultants

  • Therapists

 

Celebrating Successes

By engaging a trusted professional or other support person who know you well, you can also feel encouraged to slow down and celebrate the little successes in life. Maybe you had a goal to feel more comfortable talking about what you do with others and you celebrate attending a network event where you had to describe it to multiple people in a matter of minutes. Perhaps you have a goal of conquering your fear of public speaking and find yourself in front of a community audience talking about a project you are involved in. Whatever the achievement, slowing down to celebrate it with those you love can reduce the experience of Imposter Syndrome, making is less of a barrier and instead, serving as fuel for your fire of drive and purpose!

“Think about all the crazy ways you feel different from everyone else. And now take the judgment out of that. And what you are left with is such a wholly dynamic, inspiring character who could lead an epic story.” Jennifer Lee

Mirroring in Relationships: Manifesting and Maintaining Connection

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What does it mean to feel connection with another person? How do you know when you are building rapport in your interactions with others? For many of us, connection starts with body language and conversation when determining relatability and ongoing engagement. Engagement can lead to belongingness and belongingness is a crucial element of positive mental health and overall wellness. So why wouldn’t we want to pursue belongingness and connection in our relationships and throughout our lives in support of optimal wellbeing?

 

Monkey See Monkey Do

Connection can be measured externally in how we interact with one another, but also internally through brain activity. Mimicking one another, often described as mirroring, was first discovered by Giacomo Rizzolatti, MD and his colleagues when studying monkeys.  Rizzolatti recognized that there was similar, observable brain activity indicating pleasure when a monkey consumed a banana as when the monkey observed a researcher consuming a banana. This brain activity involving neurons, called Mirror Neurons, provided implications that our brain activity responds in relation to others, thus encouraging development of an empathetic response. A more recent article was published in the UK on research involving infants and their mothers. With eye contact, the brain waves in the infant responded and attempted to synchronize with their mother, implying efforts at deeper connection and communication, according to scientists at the University of Cambridge.

 

Bonding in Business

Mirror neurons are important for close relationships; however, they can be influential in working relationships as well. Business gurus have developed interpersonal programs to support connection and reciprocity in business interactions, including awareness of body language, eye contact, and mannerisms. These programs can teach a person to be more aware of cues in social interactions and introduce subtle mirroring behaviors to increase engagement, likeability, and reciprocity. 

Mirroring behavior in conversations is adaptive, such as noticing when one party begins to unconsciously mimic the other in their posture, speech, and/or gestures during an interaction. As you can see from the picture we’ve chosen above, several members of the group are mirroring one another in their hand gestures, indicating connection or attempted connection in the moment. When learning these interpersonal skills for yourself, you may experiment with subtly shifting your posture to mimic the other party, exploring any observable differences in the interaction, including how you each feel towards one another. Mirroring research shows that when you make subtle attempts to mirror another person, they will find you more approachable, likeable, and connected, all which can be valuable when conducting working interactions or achieving rapport.

 

Generational Gaps

Engagement in working and personal relationships can support successful interactions, and it can also change how a person feels about themselves, including shifts in self-confidence and self-worth. Jean Twenge, a Psychologist researching generational differences including mental health, substance use, technology, and social engagement, speaks of this in depth in her book iGen. Her book highlights the dramatic shift in social interaction away from face to face contact to more technology-based connection. Her book also highlights a possible correlation between technology and lack of belongingness, even when those surveyed reported, on average, more than three hours per day of technology use including social media. Twenge’s research identifies some concerns about connection, including individuals reporting minimal person to person engagement, low self-confidence or preparedness in social situations, and thus identifies questions needing to be answered around technology and mental health.

Regardless of how we measure it, connection is important. One way of encouraging connection is getting out in the world and finding people who have things in common. This can be a pleasant opportunity to engage over shared interests and build relationships. Identifying activities you enjoy can be a starting point to engaging others around shared interests, with organizations like Meetup.com bringing groups of people together around enjoyable experiences. Pushing yourself to get out and meet people can have a positive result, as belongingness and social interaction continue to be vital parts of what it means to be human.

“You're imperfect, and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” Brene Brown

Pursuing Purpose: What Feels Worthwhile

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Purpose. Impact. Fulfillment. All are meaningful words for a desired way of living we want to maintain in pursuit of a quality life. Society may tell us to find what we love to do and do it for the rest of our life. Individuals tell us to never settle and keep pursuing our dreams. Regardless of how it’s described, pursuit of purpose, passion, or fulfillment can be seen as the driving force behind our behaviors and identity within the world. Influential author and speaker Simon Sinek calls this quest for meaning, “finding your why.”

 

Learning Through Literature

So how does one start the journey in finding their why? For some, it’s engaging in reading material such as Simon Sinek and David Mead’s book, Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team, or exploring your leadership style with Tom Rath and Barry Conchie’s Strengths Based Leadership. Perhaps you explore your personality through the Enneagram, which is increasing in popularity over the Myers Briggs Personality Test in its ability to develop insight into how we interact relationally with others from reinforcement in our childhood experiences. Any of these sources could support increased awareness not only of our strengths, but awareness of the psychological driving forces behind our motivation and resulting behaviors. A free version of the Enneagram quiz called EnneaApp can be found through the App Store with additional information and the formal assessment can found at the Enneagram Institute (enneagraminstitute.com).

 

Vetting Values

In addition to read and written assessment, another low-risk option for exploration of purpose and self-discovery can occur through values exercises. Ranking a series of values by level of importance can allow further insight of what motivates a person. By engaging in a values exercise, it allows one to check in on how important values are being experienced both in the present moment and how they can be improved in the future to support feelings of fulfillment.  A free, online resource to engage in exploration of your values can be found by completing the Life Values Inventory (lifevaluesinventory.org).

 

Core Beliefs and Cognitions

Engaging in the progressive work of processing behavior patterns and values can also be explored through therapeutic work. Identifying negative thoughts or core beliefs can create new connections and awareness between actions and reactions. Core beliefs can be described as our deepest, sometimes darkest fears or beliefs about ourselves, usually focusing on negative traits such as feelings of unworthiness, being unlovable, or feelings of failure.  When experienced, core beliefs can engage visceral reactions in the body including intense feelings of shame and fear. When explored through trauma therapy modalities such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), healing can be accelerated and supported to re-write our views of negative beliefs to something more positive, thus improving self-esteem, functioning, and relationships with others.

Whether you engage in the above-mentioned exercises to improve self-esteem, discover your purpose, or develop new insight, know that self-discovery is an exciting, sometimes lengthy process to uncover passion and motivation.  However you go about engaging in “finding your why,” enjoy the process and be gentle with yourself as you uncover your recipe for success to achieve feelings of fulfillment and keep your passions alive!

“When you find your why, you find a way to make it happen.” Eric Thomas

Mandatory: Making it Worthwhile

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“I don’t want to be here. I’m not going to say anything. I don’t know. Why should I talk to you?” You may find yourself thinking or saying thoughts like these in response to pressures to engage from a program, family, or friends. Perhaps you aren’t ready to share what’s brought you here, or what the challenges are that you are facing in this moment. Perhaps you feel like your personal freedom has been taken away, your choice to participate of your own free will. Understanding that you may feel angry, resentful, or withdrawn, please consider the following in support of getting the most out of something that is identified as mandatory.

 

Blocking or Belonging

You may come from a different background or hold different values from those you come into contact with, so what brings people together in this process? Shared experience around homelessness, financial instability, substance abuse, conflict in relationships, or a lack support can help one feel less isolated and alone in their experience. Although each person’s story is their own, the feeling of connection to others and belonging can go a long way in having an experience feel less mandatory and more voluntary. When you observe others engaging in the program or group, you may find yourself asking:

  • Do I feel I can relate to others in the group?

  • Do I feel this community is healthy, approachable, supportive, and willing to engage me in this process?

  • Do I feel supported by staff and helping professionals to achieve my goals?

  • Do I feel comfortable opening up and working on myself in the presence of others?

For many involved in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), they speak of the community as an equally powerful element as the 12 Steps in to their ability to actively participate in their own sobriety. Due to the friendships they make, they feel they have a connection to others in ways that feel encouraging and uplifting in moments of challenge or struggle.

 

Building Perspective

In addition to identifying a supportive community, how you approach the experience for yourself matters. Do you have realistic expectations of what you can accomplish both short and long term? Can you set yourself up for success in your work with others? When starting this process, it is helpful to understand basic needs as the foundation for progress. Educating yourself on how basic needs such as food, safety, and shelter provide the foundation of stability gives you permission to organize goals for success. Abraham Maslow, who identified this relationship in the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, emphasizes that only when basic needs are met can one focus on higher work around self-esteem, sobriety, and relationships.

 

Relational Rapport

When exploring relationships, research tells us that therapeutic rapport accounts for more than any other factor when measuring progress towards goals set in therapy. In other words, the therapeutic relationship, unconditional positive regard, and power of feeling seen, heard, understood, and supported has positive results on goal progression. If your past experience involves trust or mistrust, being aware of how therapy and/or relationships have helped or hindered you in the past can put current resistance and reluctance in perspective. A few questions that you may find helpful at ask at the first meeting with a helping professional include:

  • What kinds of clients have you worked with before?

  • How do you work with people who are uncomfortable with therapy?

  • What do you do with feedback from clients?

  • What can I expect from working with you?

All of these questions encourage healthy discussion around the therapeutic process and can provide insight into expectations and measurable goals when engaging a helping professional in your own growth process. 

Mandatory can feel restrictive and stressful when viewed as a loss of control or freedom. What better way to reframe it than to ask yourself, what can make it worthwhile? 

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Dr. Wayne Dyer

Action Over Insight: Why You Should Be Asking “What?”

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There’s the old saying that, “deeds are more powerful than words.” It means that action is just as important, if not more so than simply talking. Although finding insight and discussing your intentions are valuable, the more critical step is actually taking action. It’s also the hardest as it means committing to a path, course, or direction.

Also, it means taking a risk, with the haunting possibility of failure. Yet, an action also has the greatest chance of success. After all, if you choose to do nothing then there will certainly be no benefit. Therefore, consider the importance of action and why you should be asking “what?”

Understand Action and Empowerment

When you commit to action and focus on the “what” you are empowering yourself. You are the person who is choosing to do something. This is much more strength-based as opposed to letting others do things for you. Or, to allow events to direct you instead of you being the one to take direction. If this is new for you then taking action may be intimidating or even scary. However, it is also thrilling and exciting to be the one committing to action. It’s led to some of the defining moments of our history. For example, it was the simple act of refusing to move from a bus seat that sparked the modern civil rights movement.

Focus on the “What” Versus “What Ifs”

When considering action, it’s easy to get caught up in the “what ifs” rather than the “what.” For example, you may spin your wheels considering all of the possible outcomes of a situation. Although both the positive and negatives outcomes exist, it’s not uncommon to solely focus on the negative ones. In turn, this can quickly lead to inaction. Instead, direct your attention to the “what” and doing the action. Yes, considering the outcome of your decision is important. Yet, if you get too stuck on the “what ifs” then you will never actually do anything.

Know That There Is No Perfect Choice

Another problem that you might have is focusing on the “perfect” decision. If you don’t make the perfect decision, what could happen? The possibilities are endless, no doubt. The reality is that there is no perfect choice. There is simply the choice (or choices) in front of you. Therefore, decide what you can do right now. In short, choose your “what.” Otherwise, you will again be stuck in the zone of crippling indecisiveness.

Find Purpose with Your “What”

You may feel that you don’t have any purpose in life. Thus, you are listless, drifting about in the world. This doesn’t have to relate only to your professional life or job. It could have to do with anything in your life. Are you just waiting for something to happen? Maybe you’re waiting for life to come to find you, fulfilling your goals and dreams. Waiting won’t fill the void that you are looking to fill.

Instead, the fastest way to discover your purpose is to choose your “what.” The reason is that your “what may take you down a path you weren’t expecting, leading to new possibilities that you never even considered. Or, perhaps you discover that you have chosen a dead-end. So what do you do now? Make a new choice and take a different course of action. Both paths are ways to finding your purpose.

Be Willing to Commit

When you choose your “what,” you are committing to something. Despite commitment being a word you may frequently hear, do you truly understand its meaning? Committing to something means a willingness to stick with it, even with the ups and downs. It means being in it for the long haul and being dedicated to the action. It’s easy to be scared away from your “what” because of the commitment. Yet, committing is necessary in order to find success. When you are asking “what,” you are directing yourself toward action. Even if you decide later on down the road that it was the wrong decision, you’re still on a successful journey to your purpose. You can always make another choice. For now, being willing to commit to the “what” and to the direction you take.


Guest post written by Brenda Bomgardner, LPC, BCC, ACS

Guest post written by Brenda Bomgardner, LPC, BCC, ACS

After completing a successful 17-year career in Human Resources at a Fortune 500 Company Brenda returned to school to earn her master’s degree in community counseling and a certificate as a board certified coach. She then launched a private practice, Creating Your Beyond, LLC.  Working with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and providing entrepreneurial guidance along with career coaching brings her fulfillment and joy. She is described by her peers as an expert on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Her new book, Sweet Spot: Finding Your Private Practice Groove with Principles for ACT, will be released in the summer of 2019. Chocolate is her favorite food group and adventure is her passion pursuit. She loves visitors and invites you pop on over to her website at Creating Your Beyond and take a look around. https://brendabomgardner.com  

Self-Sabotage: Significance and Strategies

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“Self-Sabotage is when we say we want something and then we go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby

You may find yourself after the fact, stating you don’t know why you did it.  Why you ended the relationship when nothing was wrong. Why you walked out of the job after only a month. Why you picked a fight and got kicked off the team. These are just a few examples of when someone may have engaged in self-sabotage. And the question is, why?

 

Under the Iceberg

Identified as the founder of Psychology, Sigmund Freud once described the mind as an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg above water was our conscious or thoughts or feelings we are aware of, and accounts for roughly 20% of our mind. The other 80% under the surface represents unconscious, and represents things we are not yet aware of to better understand our behaviors.

Mark Tyrell, Self Help author of “Self-Sabotage Behaviour can come in many forms,” identifies four common reasons one may engage in self-sabotage.

 

#1 Anticipatory Grief

For some of us, the familiarity of failure is a painful, somewhat predictable experience. We may go through our world anticipating loss, or anticipating when something good, something we enjoy, is going to switch, fall, end, or fail. Perhaps you can relate to the following thoughts of anticipatory loss or end:

  • I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

  • This is too good to be true.

  • What’s the catch?

  • Nothing good lasts for me, when will this go south?

Because these thoughts have a lot of power, you may find yourself engaging in a belief that you don’t deserve good things. Or that you are doomed to suffer and that failing is inevitable. Similar to self-fulfilling prophecy, you may find yourself predicting the outcome, and in this case, it’s negative. With these thoughts in mind, you may find yourself also subscribing in the second reason one can engage in self-sabotage.

 

#2 Control Freak

If we truly believe something good is going to end badly, we may want to be in control of the outcome. Have you ever found yourself thinking:

  • I’ll just end this relationship now, it’s less painful in this moment than when it ends months or years from now.

  • Better to leave this job before I get fired.

  • I already know they are going to say our friendship is over, so I’ll just stop talking to them and get it over with.

We may convince ourselves that feeling in control of the failure in this moment can hurt less than something that comes on suddenly, out of the blue, or later when our guard is down.

 

#3 Boredom

The experience of our guard being down and everything feeling predictable can lead to discomfort as well. Predictability can lead to boredom, which can also be a reason to self-sabotage. If we go from feelings of chaos and excitement to monotony and boredom, Mark Tyrell states, as one example, we may find ourselves picking a fight with someone for no reason at all. Perhaps just for the alive feeling we get from adrenaline and excitement. Do you find yourself engaging in any of the following:

  • Picking a fight when you aren’t upset

  • Looking for trouble in new environments

  • Engaging in substance use

  • Relapsing when no trigger is present

 

#4 Feeling Unworthy

Relapsing when not triggered can also be due to feelings of low self-worth. Maybe you feel you don’t deserve success or happiness and instead, engage by punishing yourself and setting yourself up to fail. This can represent the cornerstone of self-sabotage in wanting something and doing everything in your power to not achieve it, basically going the other direction from success. When explored further, many truly believe they “aren’t worth it” and engage in behaviors that prevent progress due to those negative beliefs.

 

#5 I’m Unprepared

One final example of self-sabotage to consider is the feeling of being unprepared. Perhaps you don’t feel ready to end a support program and so you relapse to remain involved with probation or the treatment community. An observation of those in the legal system is that they don’t feel they have resources on the outside, so they find themselves committing a petty crime to be reintroduced into the environment that feels most familiar. You don’t yet feel prepared to do this on your own and so you create a reason to not be on your own.

So where do you go from here? For many, just the awareness of why one engages in self-sabotaging behaviors can be a powerful process in exploring needs and change to more positive behaviors. Being aware that you are not alone in the reasons for self-sabotage and talking about the challenges can be a healing journey towards self-love, acceptance, and success.

For additional ideas of how to manage self-sabotage, you can check out Mark Tyrell’s “Self-Sabotage Behaviour can come in many forms,” at http://www.uncommonhelp.me/articles/stop-self-sabotage-behaviour/  

“In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can.” Nikos Kazantzakis

Engaging Adolescents and Caregivers in Family Therapy

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“Do I have to do family therapy?”

Yep, that's such a common question I get from my adolescent clients at the start of therapy. Here are some other common questions and statements a therapist may receive in regards to parents and caregivers being a part of an adolescent's therapy process:

"So how much are you going to tell my parents?"

"I hate these family things; i just feel so awkward."

"Do I have to be in the room when you talk to my mom/dad/guardian?"

“I’ll talk to you, but I will not talk to my parents about this!”

“Why try, nothing is going to change!”

“They/she/he just doesn’t understand me.”

 

Do any of these sound familiar in your therapeutic work?

When reflecting on these common initial responses and questions about family therapy, it has been my professional experience that I see a clear pattern of fear, lack of trust and shame arise as barriers to adolescents getting their needs met by their caregivers. Additionally, many adolescents seem to have a common misunderstanding (and caregivers too) that family therapy is about pointing fingers and being the “problem” of the family. So with this in mind, I’m excited to share some strategies I use to build rapport, connection and trust with adolescents to empower them in engaging with caregivers in family therapy.

1) Be Transparent! In other words, BE REAL with your client. Adolescents are smart, clever and can read through any BS or tip-toeing going on in the room. I give them the direct and transparent version of confidentiality and expectations of what therapy entails. 

“I know you may or may not be wanting to communicate certain things with parents, but I want you to know what I must report immediately. Any safety concern including suicidal ideation/planning, abuse, neglect, witness to violence, and self-injury must be reported to caregivers or appropriate authorities. With that being said, there may be things that come up that you are not open to sharing but would be beneficial to do so in order to get your needs met from your parents/guardians. When this happens, I want you to know I will challenge but not force you, and together we can figure out the best way to schedule a family session around it when you are ready.”

 

2) Build trust immediately: I know this one is a given, but I start with every first session letting my adolescent client know that I don’t expect them to trust me right away in an effort to ease any tension or pressure someone might feel.

“I want you to know that I don’t expect you to trust me right away. Trust takes time and is earned so that’s exactly what we are going to do. We will take time to get to know each other. You can ask me any questions you need to about myself or the process. I’ll let you know if I can’t answer it for any reason. And I want you to know if I ever ask or discuss something that you are not ready to answer, you say so, and we will use the time for what you are ready for and need. This is your time and space, and I want you to feel safe.”

 

3) Share the responsibility and “workload”. It’s essential to dispel any myth or belief with the adolescent and caregivers that a) they are the problem child and b)your job is to “fix” them in some way. Again, this is where I use transparency in the first session or parent consult (as well as throughout ongoing treatment) to set clear expectations for all involved.

To caregivers: “I want you to know that if i’m working with your child, I’m working with you also.  In many ways, this work can be equal or more for the parent.  My job is not to “fix”. Rather, i’m here to provide assessment, education, skill-building and a safe space to process and build awareness so that you and your child can more effectively communicate, understand one another and connect in a meaningful way to address the barriers.” I always let adolescents know that I’ve had this conversation with the caregiver(s) as well so they know it’s a joint effort.

 

4) Empower the adolescent voice. I like to give my adolescent clients as much choice and opportunity to lead as possible when it comes to parent involvement. Here are a few different ways, I frequently go about this in session:

“Would you like me to check in with mom/dad alone or with you it the room?”

“Is there anything you’d like to share with mom/dad/caregiver from our session today?”

“Is it alright if we bring mom/dad in at the end to share any skills we worked on so they can practice it too?”

“Is it ok if I emailed mom/dad about (a specific one or two things from session) so that they can be more aware and better understand what you are going through or how to support you?”

“Is there anything you want to teach mom/dad today?”

“Would you like me to explain (specific pattern or skill) for you to caregiver with you in the room?”

“Would you want to do a family session with mom/dad on this? If so, when do you think you’d like to do it?”

 

5) Parent Coaching Sessions are a must! Along with letting parents and adolescents know that this is joint work, I let them know that some sessions will be just with the parent(s). I am transparent with the adolescent and parents about the purpose of these sessions from the start.

“These sessions with your mom/dad are NOT to report all that you’ve said or processed in session. Instead, they are an opportunity for you parent to explore their own barriers getting in the way of supporting or connecting with you. I will always let you know when i will be having a session with you parents in case you have any questions or anything you would like me to share or work on with your mom/dad.”

To caregiver: “These are sessions where you can explore challenging emotions, patterns, behaviors that you are struggling with that might be acting as barriers to your relationship with your child. The main goal is to empower you as a caregiver and strengthen your relationship.”

 

6) Provide Outside Resources to Caregivers and Adolescents from the start.

At the end of an initial session or consult, I provide at least one book and internet-based resource that will help parents get a head start on some of the topics and ideas we will be addressing in therapy. Throughout the process, I continue to provide both the caregivers and the adolescent ongoing supports based on what is coming up in therapy and what the family barriers may be.

Some of my favorite resources are:

Ted Talks: Especially for the adolescent and caregiver to watch together at times.

Wellcast videos: Here is one of my favorites, but they have them on all topics! I often show to adolescent in session and send to both caregiver and adolescent after session. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMIU-Uo8cZU

Phone apps: mood meter, calm.com, Headspace are just some of my favorites.

Books: there are so many; here are a few favorites

The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly and Rising Strong by Brene Brown (also has great ted talks to introduce the concept of vulnerability and shame)

Whole-Brain Child, Yes Brain and Brainstorm by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

Emotion Focused Family Therapy resources: This includes caregiver webinars and in-person workshops, book recs, links to articles, etc. All greatly support parent coaching and family work. http://www.emotionfocusedfamilytherapy.org and http://www.mentalhealthfoundations.org are two helpful websites.

Review/summary emails: These I send with adolescent permission to specifically review a skill, idea or new strategy that would be helpful for the caregiver or adolescent from session. This way, they can refer back to it as needed.

 

Engagement with adolescents and parents can be difficult at times, but I have found the more i’m able to focus on empowering families and setting clear expectations of what family work is and isn’t, the more willing adolescents and caregivers are to engage in the process. My goal is never to be the one the adolescents trust or “go to” the most, it’s to help them build that with their parent(s) or caregiver to be able manage their challenges and barriers in life in a sustainable and connected way.


Guest post written by Meaghan Burns Sablich, LCSW

Guest post written by Meaghan Burns Sablich, LCSW

Meaghan Burns Sablich, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Licensed Colorado State School Service Provider and clinical supervisor with 10+ years experience in the field. Meaghan received her Masters Degree in Social Work from the University of Denver with a concentration in Families and Children. Meaghan has worked in a variety of therapeutic settings including inpatient hospital, residential treatment center, day treatment center, schools, non-for profit organization and private practice. Areas of clinical focus include: depression, anxiety, ADHD, eating disorders, family therapy and parent coaching, grief and loss, school/learning concerns and self worth work.