Month: December 2011

Forgiveness

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Have you ever been in an argument with someone and brought up an offense from ten years prior?  Maybe it is an offense you bring up regularly during arguments to remind them of the hurt they caused you.  If so, you are not alone.  Often one of the biggest hurdles in relationships is the difficulty for one or both people to forgive the other for past transgressions, be they large or small.  Many believe that by forgiving the other, they are condoning what was done to them.  They feel that by doing so they will be opening themselves up to future injury of the same nature if they let their partner or friend “off the hook.” Other times, they use the reminder to serve as a motivator to get the other person to feel remorse or to work harder at pleasing them.   Unfortunately, though, this tactic seldom works. The good news is that there is another way to handle the anger and resentment of past offenses.  The option is forgiveness.

By forgiving someone we are letting go of the grudge we carry.  We are saying that although we do not agree with what was done, and we may even resent it, we realize that we are all human and make mistakes.  We are reflecting on ourselves, assessing our own mistakes and acknowledging our own imperfections. We are making a conscious choice to let go of the negative feelings onto which we are holding. This is a benefit to the relationship and to our health.  It is a reflection of our own maturity and ego-strength.  Forgiveness can be freeing, liberating and empowering to the one doing the forgiving, as well as to the person being forgiven.

All that said, there are also times when, although we may forgive, we realize that the relationship may be irreparably damaged.  An example of this is with infidelity.  Some relationships are able to work through it, learn from it, and go on without further incident.  However, for others, infidelity is not something they choose to withstand.  It becomes an insurmountable hurdle and the relationship ends.  Yet, even though a transgression may be the catalyst for the end of the relationship, there is still the choice that someone can make to forgive the other. This may take time, and  is not a sign of condoning or feeling good about the end of the relationship or the way that you were wounded.  Nevertheless, finding a way to let go of the hurt and anger can be a tremendously valuable step in the healing process, and without it, the wounds may go on to affect them in future relationships and personal growth.  Nevertheless, there are some wounds that are harder to get past than others.  When it is a challenge to forgive, here are some things to think about that may help:

  • Have you had a chance to grieve the injury?  For example, if you just found out about an affair, it is unrealistic to think that you would immediately move into the mode of forgiveness.  As a matter of fact, it will likely take many months or years to achieve.  It is important to take time to nurse your wounds and grieve the loss.  However, it is a wonderful mark of closure to let go of the anger and forgive, regardless of whether or not the relationship was able to be salvaged.
  • Consider your own mistakes.  How have you hurt others?  Can you remember a time when someone forgave you and you were humbled by it?  Give consideration to paying it forward and granting forgiveness for the sake of the other, and for the sake of yourself.
  • Remind yourself that you are not agreeing with the transgression.  Forgiveness is about letting go.

Working toward forgiveness can be a stimulus for much of our own introspection and self-growth.  Nevertheless, it is certainly easier said than done.  It is important to remember that we do not have control of the events that happen to us or the choices that others make. However, we do have a choice, in any event, as to how we would like to handle our own behavior.  We can choose to let reeling from a wound become the driving force behind our future choices; or, we can make a conscious choice to let go of the weight of anger, leave the grudge in the past, and hence, forgive.

Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC  http://www.thcounseling.com

Enjoying the Season of Giving

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“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” –Maya Angelou 

The season of giving is here, yet it has become a society that seems to place so much emphasis on giving big gifts, giving expensive gifts, that  often people feel that they can’t keep up, and therefore have nothing meaningful to give.  Remember that gift giving should come from the heart.  It’s not about how flashy a gift is, it is about the thought behind it.  If you are looking for ways to show someone how much you care about them, while staying true to a small budget, here are some things to consider:

  • First of all, remember the gifts that have meant the most to you.  Most likely, they were gifts that someone put a lot of thought into, regardless of what the gift itself really was.
  • Think about what the recipient loves.  Do you share special memories with this person?  Could you create a photo album or collage of some of those memories?
  • Maybe the gift of time is what they would like the most.  Consider setting aside a special evening or afternoon to spend with the recipient.  You could go for a stroll in a park or watch a movie together at home.  Maybe you could spend an afternoon baking.  Whatever it is, think about what the other person needs- not in terms of things, but in terms of your time and attention.
  • Let your creative juices flow!  Write a poem, paint a picture, make an ornament.  Whatever you do, if it something that shows your effort and creativity, it will make the recipient smile—and most certainly warm their heart!

Enjoying this time of year does not need to be expensive.  However, it should be a time when you reflect on those that you love and consider ways to show them.  Remember that the best gifts come from the heart, and you will reap the benefits too by feeling good about the time you put into doing something kind for the special people in your life!

 

Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC  http://www.thcounseling.com

Managing Grief During the Holidays

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The holiday season can be a particularly challenging time for people who are coping with the loss of a loved one. Trying to find ways to endure the sadness often creates feelings of depression, lack of motivation, and disinterest in being around others. However, there are ways to allow your love for that special person to help make this time even more meaningful and to let it become a celebration of their life, even if only in some small gesture.

• Create a tradition in honor of their memory. Light a candle each night of the holiday season in their honor, or host an open house each year at this time that you consider to be in their memory. Maybe you could bake their favorite cookies each year during the holidays or have a special meal that they loved.

• Make it a habit to remember the positives that they put into this world and say a word of thanks for them.

• Give a gift to a child in need knowing in your heart that it is in honor of your loved one.

• There are some beautiful children’s books written about love and loss that are wonderful to read, regardless of your age. One in particular is The Invisible String, written by Patrice Karst. It is a story that serves to remind us all that we are all connected to those we love, be they near or far, living or deceased. Reading a comforting book like that can also ease the pain during the difficult holiday time.

When grieving, try to be proactive with your feelings. Think of things that you can do to honor the positive memories you have of them and celebrate the life they lived. Most of all, don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone about how you are feeling. Grief is an extremely painful emotion, but it is also something from which we can grow, learn and love.

Making New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep

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So it’s just about that time of year again when we begin to contemplate what we will promise to improve in our lives as a way of ringing in the New Year.  Yes, it’s time to decide on a New Year’s Resolution.  For many of us, we can’t even recall our previous resolutions, let alone claim to have been successful at accomplishing them.  So, how do we go about making a sincere resolution that will be lasting, achievable, meaningful and not just another empty promise?  Here is a list of the top ten ways to make sure this year your resolution becomes the springboard for many other satisfying accomplishments throughout the year:

  1. Consider first what is meaningful to you as opposed to what is meaningful to others.  For example, trying to lose weight because someone keeps telling you that you should is not going to be as motivating as trying to lose weight because you value health and fitness and want to spend more time incorporating that into your life.
  2. Set realistic expectations.  Don’t set yourself up for failure by striving for the unachievable.   Using words like “never” or “always” are unrealistic.  For example, saying you’ll never eat chocolate again?  Probably not going to happen!
  3. Develop a plan for achieving the resolution.  What are the steps you need to take to change the behavior, or begin striving for your goal?  Chart out the steps, and take it one step at a time.
  4. Set short-term and long-term goals to reach.  What is the first small goal that you need to reach in order to attain the greater goal?  One day of healthy eating? One week of working out at the gym? What about a day of remembering to be thankful for the blessings in your life?
  5. Reward yourself for the small accomplishments.  When you reach each of the short-term goals, how will you reward yourself?  Simply recognizing that you did well at practicing self-discipline is excellent motivation for the next step in your plan!
  6. Don’t give up if you mess up.  Mistakes will happen!  You’ll forget to work on your goal for a day—or a week!  But, don’t give up!  As soon as you realize your oversight, begin again working toward your resolution.  Change doesn’t happen overnight!
  7. Remember that breaking a habit (or changing a behavior) begins by simply noticing when you are not doing things the way you had hoped.  Just catching yourself (even after the fact) is an important step in the process.
  8. Put a note somewhere you will see each morning to remind yourself about the goal you are working towards.  Start the day by remembering what you are hoping to achieve that day.
  9. Tell others about your resolution.  Don’t keep it to yourself.  By telling others what you are working on, you are more likely to strive to achieve the goal.   Better yet, tell a close friend or your partner, and ask them to provide you with encouragement.
  10. Expect to succeed at reaching your goal!  Think optimistically and take your goals seriously!  You can succeed at accomplishing your New Year’s Resolution or any other goals that you set!

Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC  http://www.thcounseling.com

Learning from our Mistakes

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The self is not something ready-made, but something in continuous formation through choice of action.– John Dewey                                                                                                                            

        I think most people would agree, it is impossible to get through life without making mistakes; mistakes in judgment, mistakes in planning, mistakes in delivery.  We may start out with the best intentions, only to realize the mess we have created or the disappointment we have suffered. Nevertheless, it is those mistakes from which we learn and grow.  How many people can remember being in their youth thinking that when they reached the age of 21, they would know everything they needed to know for the journey of life? They would be an adult and have it all figured out.  For most people, it doesn’t take many years of adulthood to figure out that they were wrong and still have so much to learn. 

        Life has a way of gifting us with surprises and sometimes throwing us curve balls.  We frequently need to regroup and take stock in our choices and values, often making very difficult decisions along the way. We are constantly evolving.  I often think to myself, If only I knew then, what I know now.   Experiences are the teachers and we are the students. Being open to the evolution of our thoughts keeps us open to the possibility in other’s thoughts as well, recognizing the opportunity to learn from them.  Think how often people say, if only I had known. We all learn as we get older and have new experiences.  To regret what we didn’t know when we were younger is fruitless. Yet, to learn from our mistakes is not only productive, but it is the only way to grow.  There is no point we reach at which we are done learning and changing.  Rather than living a life focused on regret, we have the opportunity to choose a life of awareness whereby we are willing to look at our mistakes and continuously shape and improve ourselves.  We have the opportunity to enjoy the journey of our own evolution!

        Consider:  What were some of the turning points in your life where you made a poor choice or behaved in a way that caused you or others pain? What were some difficult circumstances in your life that you had to overcome?  Give some thought to these chapters of your life and consider what specifics you learned from those experiences.  How are you different today because of those struggles?  Building on these insights, consider what strengths you possess that helped you through those struggles.  Be proud of how you’ve grown!

Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC    http://www.thcounseling.com

Relationship Stress During the Holidays

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‘Tis the Season: Shopping, decorating, holiday gatherings, baking, wrapping, and still juggling the day to day responsibilities of work and home. It’s no wonder the holidays can create such stress in our lives and friction in relationships.  Unfortunately the enjoyment of the season can be lost when the tension invades your love life.  However, a few simple changes can help you to maintain peace and make the most of your time together during what is supposed to be a memorable and meaningful time of the year.

Make it a point to tell your partner something positive that you like about them every day.  Do they look nice or did you appreciate something they did?  Be sure to approach the season and your loved ones with an ‘attitude of gratitude.’  You’ll find it is contagious and sets the tone for positive interactions throughout the day! 

Take time each week to spend together relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.  It’s easy to put this one on hold during the holiday season since there are often so many holiday gatherings that can consume your weekend time.  But if you set aside some time to spend together, even if it is taking an hour or two before or after a holiday party, the benefits can go a long way.  Spending some of this time reflecting on memories from previous holidays can be a delight!  Talk about your joys from the past year, your favorite holiday memories, the events you are looking forward to in the year ahead.  You will be quickly reminded that it isn’t the ‘things’ that matter, it is the love and the relationships that make the season so special.

Listen to your partner. With all of the activity at this time of year, tension can build up within each of us as we run from one activity to another.  It is therapeutic just to feel heard.  By listening to what your partner is saying, any tension that they may have accumulated throughout the day could be diminished simply by feeling you have listened to them.  When they feel less tense, you will too!

Remember the ‘Reason for the Season.’  Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, or Kwaanza, the message remains the same:  Spread peace, be thankful and remember that the joy comes from giving rather than receiving.  Being a giver during the holidays as a partner and a friend by listening, slowing down to take time for each other, and being thankful for the simple pleasures in life, can recharge a relationship and help you to get the coming New Year off to a great start!

Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC    http://www.thcounseling.com

Exercise and Anxiety

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I have long been a proponent of exercise and the value it has in helping people to manage their anxiety.  Here is an interesting article from Science Daily that really states this case:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110712122403.htm

Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC  http://www.thcounseling.com