16 Films for the Heart & Soul

With the cold, rainy, gray days of winter, I find that there is ample time spent indoors. As a self-proclaimed movie-lover, I try to take advantage of this time by watching films – be it classics, the newest Oscar-nominated movie, a documentary found on Netflix, or a fun animated adventure. Below are 16 of my favorite movies. Each of these touch my heart with how they highlight important perspectives on the human experience. Perhaps enjoying a meaningful book or a heartfelt movie can inspire you with doses of compassion, courage, & love during these dark, wintry days.

  1. The King’s Speech : for empowerment and owning your voice
  2. king's speechBig Fish : for living a big life
  3. 42 : for courage & justice
  4. foxFantastic Mr. Fox : for embracing your true (quirky) self
  5. The Pursuit of Happyness : for perseverance & hope
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower : for self-acceptance & navigating pain
  7. Goodwill Hunting : for trust & healing
  8. How to Train Your Dragon : for discovering unlikely friends
  9. dragonThe Imitation Game : for believing in your genius
  10. The Martian : for resilience
  11. The Hobbit  (trilogy) : for risk-taking & bravery
  12. Seeking a Finding for the End of the World : for connection and comradeship
  13. truman showWhen Harry Met Sally : for vulnerability & love
  14. Burt’s Buzz (documentary) for beauty in simplicity
  15. Wreck it Ralph : for knowing your value
  16. The Truman Show: for finding your own way

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Thank you for reading. To learn more about Lydia & her counseling practice at Foundation Counseling, feel free to visit here.

Healing & Uniting in Relationship: Three Keys to Constructive Communication

chairs beach“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” ~ Rollo May (late psychologist/psychotherapist)

Communication is key in not only healing from wounds in relationship but also – as Rollo May states (above) – it is essential in truly understanding another person, being understood yourself, and cultivating intimacy and mutual respect together. The following skills are helpful in gaining this awareness and seeking clarity in the midst of conflict:

[*I consistently use the word spouse in the following explanations but these skills can also be applied to other close relationships such as dating relationships, family relationships, & friendships.]

  1. Listen rather than Defend

When conversations become emotionally difficult, the normal feelings of anxiety and fear can leave us wanting to defend ourselves. We desire for our loved on to view us in a positive light. Therefore, defensiveness can be a typical response when discussions become heated. However, defending oneself often creates a wall, blocking our ability to truly empathize with the other person and genuinely hear his or her concerns.  Instead of defending yourself, “lean in” to this discomfort and accept it as normal. Then attend to your spouse, putting aside your own discomfort, and focusing on what his or her message is. Doing this for one another allows each individual to have the validating experience of having his/her voice recognized and valued.

  1. Ask rather than Assume

When engaging in discussions about tough topics, resist assuming. Assuming to know your spouse’s thoughts, feelings, and intentions impedes progress in communicating clearly. Our assumptions may be based on past experiences (even with other people) and can often be incorrect. Similar to defensiveness, assuming can be a near-automatic response when in the midst of an argument. Difficult topics often make us feel vulnerable. Out of fear of being hurt, assuming to know is a way of “having a leg up” in the moment of relational struggle. Yet, it typically causes more confusion and miscommunication by invalidating the other person’s true ideas and feelings.  Instead, approach your spouse with honest curiosity and a willingness to respect their response.

  1. Own your choices/thoughts/feelings rather than Blame them on your spouse.

Taking responsibility for your own choices, thoughts, and feelings is essential in promoting honesty and trust between you and your spouse. Use “I” and “me” statements rather than “you” statements when explaining your ideas and feelings. [ Example, saying: “When we discuss difficult topics, I feel misunderstood.” Rather than: “You never try to understand me when we have difficult conversations.”]. Blaming only further pushes your spouse away in tough conversations. Taking ownership of what you are personally responsible for cultivates a space for respect and compassion to flourish, enabling healthier, less aggressive dialogue to occur.

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Thanks for reading. Learn more about Lydia Minear, MA, LAPC’s counseling practice @ East-West Psychotherapy Associates here.

 

Noticing Vs. Judging Your Feelings [ A More Compassionate Way ]

“But feelings can’t be ignored, no matter how unjust or ungrateful they may seem.” ~ Ann Frank

I have a paper tucked away in my office drawer that I like to pull out every once in a while with clients. On it you’ll find a list of several dozen “Feeling Words” – each listed under a specific sub category. This simple sheet of paper can often provide some clarity. For instance, I’m not just “happy”, I’m “hopeful” or I’m more than simply “angry”, I feel “bitter”. I find that this simple sheet of paper comes in handy when people find themselves stumped – unsure of exactly how they feel. Gaining this deeper insight also opens the door for better answering the questions of whowhat prompt these feelings within us and whyhow they occur. More so, beyond the use of any kind of “Feeling Words” cheat sheet, I find it important that in the safety of the therapy room that feelings are discussed and processed in a different sort of way. Honestly, I see a need for a kinder, more compassionate stance towards our feelings – and towards ourselves – than we often experience. And what do I mean by this? What I typically notice is that we can quickly get into a harsh cycle of (1) feeling our feelings and then (2) criticizing ourselves, even shaming ourselves, for experiencing these true feelings. An example of this may sound like:

“I feel jealous towards my co-worker for getting the promotion…and now I hate myself for feeing jealous when I should be happy for her.”   OR

“To be honest, I feel depressed today – like I really did not want to get out of bed. Man, I must sound pathetic.”   OR

“I miss my mom so much right now. I feel like I should be dealing with her death much better than I am.

What stands out most to me in these three examples can be summed up in one word: JUDGMENT. I can picture three separate individuals bravely and honestly speaking these truthful emotions outloud and then upon recognizing the discomfort, isolation, or sorrow that these feelings bring, swiftly judging themselves.  Perhaps they deem themselves not “strong enough” or not “normal enough”. Further, how often have we – you and I – responded the same  to our own feelings. The danger about this judgment is that it provokes a third part in the cycle mentioned above. First (1) we feel our feelings, (2) we judge our feelings, and then as a result (3) we get stuck in the “muck” of self-loathing. All of the sudden we are trapped, our self-condemnation preventing us from the necessary work of digging-deepeer and seeking awareness and possible healing in the midst of the initial feeling that brought us here. A Better Way?: Perhaps a better response to our feelings can be found in replacing Judging with simply Noticing. As the initial quote by Ann Frank so accurately states, “feelings can’t be ignored” – especially the bad ones. Furthermore, there is something so incredibly important in recognizing that we are not “bad ones” for feeling these natural human emotions. Anger, guilt, desperation, sadness – it’s all there for any one of us to feel. How completely human we are when they touch our hearts. As psychotherapist Stephen Howard (in his book Heart & Soul of the Therapist) explains, we are much better off approaching our feelings with honesty and curiosity than avoidance or disdain. The reality is that our feelings are important. Though not always easy and rarely simple, our active feelings tell us something. How vital it is to listen to them with openess, ready to be aware of what direction they may be leading, truth yet to uncover, or acceptance needing to be had. __________________________________________________________________________________ Thanks for reading. Learn more about Lydia Minear, MA, LAPC’s counseling practice @ East-West Psychotherapy Associates here.

When You Change…

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~ E. E. Cummings

beachI recently went to the beach with my family. We returned to an island we hadn’t visited in many years. Being back there – a place of my childhood summers – granted me that lovely nostalgic feeling of returning to a place that I love and know well.

I realized that the beach, the homes, and the striking scenery of that place were very much the same. It kept its serene, subtle beauty. Barefoot strolls on the brown sand gave me the same comforting feeling I knew many years ago, and the refreshing touch of the calm ocean tide against my ankles presented me with the similar experience of feeling renewed by cool, salty water.  Looking out at the expanse of the large, far-reaching ocean in front of me again left me with the similar awe-inspired realization of how small I am in this big world.

However, as much as this beautiful beach seemed unaffected by time, I know that the same cannot be said about me. I have changed-I am no longer fifteen and wondering what I want to be “when I grow up.” And I expect that ten years from now, I will look back and say something similar about who I am today…

Perhaps it is for this very reason that so many of us are drawn to the beach, the mountains, and other naturally beautiful and seemingly unchanging scenic sanctuaries. As humans, we cling to those places and things that are constant in our lives. The ups and downs, twists and turns that life presents us with can be wearing – even the ones we know are healthy and important.

Yes, change is often hard.

Most new clients pursue therapy desiring, expecting, and needing positive change in their lives.  Discovering the beauty of it, of course, looks different for each person – perhaps it includes learning a better way of communicating with one’s spouse, acquiring new strategies for coping with the stress of balancing work & home, or developing acceptance of one’s personality and identity.  Each individual and situation is unique, and making changes can require varying amounts of intentionality and patience. Furthermore, each individual’s personal change can also mean incurring varying responses from family & friends.

Yep, sometimes your friends will not like it when you change.

And why is this the case? Probably for the same reason that we return to the same beach, fear ordering something different on the menu at our favorite restaurant, and tear-up when we finish the last page of an amazing book with characters we adore: change in those we love can unexpectedly create feelings of confusion, sadness, and possibly even loss. And this can be true even with knowledge that the change is helpful, positive, and good. Those precious loved ones in your life must get accustomed to your changes just as you are beginning to spread your wings and adjust to a different outlook and a new way of life.

Why else?

Some friends may not like it when you change because it challenges them to reflect on their own thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Possibly, it forces them to look at their own ‘elephants‘ they’ve kept hidden.

Going back to the quote by E.E. Cummings above the picture, courage is an essential ingredient when following the path of growth.  It often requires exposing oneself to new territory and being vulnerable to the reactions of others. Yet, without it, change is impossible.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” ~ Frederick Douglas

So, what does change mean to you and how do you experience the tension in managing the common stretch marks that often accompany it?

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Learn more about Lydia Minear, MA, LAPC’s Counseling practice @ East-West Psychotherapy Associates here.