9 Things I'll be Talking About in 2016: What to Expect on the Podcast In the Year Ahead

At the end of the year we tend to take stock and notice themes. In the beginning of the year we tend to plan and look ahead. So I've taken stock and looked ahead.  CLICK HERE OR ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE #17!

Over the past year there have been certain themes that have been really prevalent in my practice and because of that I want to talk about them more on the podcast in the year ahead. There are several big issues - I actually made a list - and came up with the nine things that have been common themes in my practice this year and I feel will be important to discuss on the podcast in 2016.

The first theme that’s really been prevalent in my practice is body image. Men, women and children in my practice talk about wanting to have a more loving relationship with their bodies. As you may know, most people I work with have experienced trauma. I think there is a link between healing trauma and having a loving relationship with one’s body, because we know trauma is stored in the body.

A second theme which has been really prevalent in my practice over the past year is craving deep, meaningful and authentic connection. I live in a wonderful community where people tend to gather with neighbors and friends and people are very kind, but relationships tend to stay at a surface level rather than delving into feelings. People say they wish for friendships in which they feel truly seen and heard. I will discuss this more on the podcast in 2016. 

Along with the theme of craving connection there’s also a theme of allowing connection. The problem is not feeling comfortable letting people in - and again, I work with a lot of people who have experienced trauma, so trust is often a major issue. When you’ve experienced relational trauma somebody has hurt you and it gives you a different perspective on whether or not it’s okay to trust people. So naturally, allowing people to really know you - showing up and being seen as who you really are - can be a challenge for people who have experienced trauma and that’ll be something I’ll be talking about more in the year ahead.

 CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE 17! 

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE 17! 

The next theme I identified that I want to talk about is workaholism and perfectionism. Here in the DC/Baltimore area we are working, working, working, working, working, working, doing, doing, doing, never wanting to slow down. It never seems like enough. It can be really hard to make time for oneself - including for therapy appointments - if you feel that without you at work something is going to fall apart. Another theme that goes along with that is being distracted, avoiding, numbing, dissociating, being disconnected from your body. Again, that goes along with trauma too so I’m going to be talking about that more.

When you are avoiding your feelings by numbing, staying busy with work, never giving yourself a moment to be still, you’re not in present moment awareness and you are, as I like to say, on the fast train to burnout city. People are expressing feelings of being burned out - on work, on caregiving, on parenting - all of those things can be very stressful! So it makes sense that you would feel burned out, especially if you never give yourself a chance to rest. And our culture does not encourage that! Wanting to increase self-care but not knowing how is a big theme that I’ve been talking about with people in my practice and I want to talk about more on the podcast. Actually, it’s a pretty consistent theme on my podcasts so far and it will be in the year to come as well.

One thing that I want to change about the podcast this year is that even though I talk about the fact that I’m a trauma therapist I don’t think I really talk very much about trauma on the podcast. I guess I just expect that people really know what it is but I’m realizing that when I say trauma you may be thinking of someone who has experienced a house fire, natural disasters or combat. Those are certainly traumatic event but I’m also talking about childhood experiences of no one attending to your emotional needs or being physically abused.

9 topics for the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast in 2016

Many people don’t consider some experiences that they may have had as physical abuse even though they may qualify, like being hit with a hairbrush, being slapped, punched, spanked with a belt...whether or not it would be something that a court would prosecute a parent for doing when you were younger (because it may have been seen as normal then), the effect is traumatic for child. I think there’s an under-recognition of how serious the problem of trauma is, how much it affects so many of us. I will be talking a lot more about the effects of childhood trauma, the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, and things that I talk about in therapy sessions but I haven’t mentioned much here on the podcast.

The last theme that I want to cover on the podcast more in 2016 is negotiating relationships with family of origin when one has had an unhappy childhood. It’s a problem for so many people and one that people don’t frequently speak about. We have this American cultural ideal that families are always there for each other, families come first, etcetera. But if you had an abusive childhood and you are uncomfortable being around your family, where do you fit into our American cultural ideal if that’s your life? It’s true for so many people. We’ll be talking more about that in the podcast this year.

So these are the themes that I’ve heard about in my practice over the past year and want to talk about more in the podcast in the coming year. I would love to hear your thoughts about these topics and any other themes that you may be interested in hearing covered on the podcast so please leave comments on this post!

Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast

I would love to hear your feedback! If you like the podcast, please consider subscribing on iTunes and leaving a rating and review. This helps iTunes know that people are enjoying the podcast and it makes it easier for people to find it when there’re more ratings and reviews and subscriptions because that’s how they decide how popular it is.

As always, if you like what I'm doing, please find me on social media! You can follow me  on TwitterFacebookPinterestInstagram and Google+. To listen to my podcast, search the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and (coming soon) Google Play. Or click here to listen via my website. You can also subscribe to my occasional e-mail newsletter by clicking here. I only publish them when I have something new to tell you about. 

Here's to an interesting 2016!

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

What is Perfectionism & Why Should I Care?

Perfectionism - What is it? Why should I Care?

We all know them. People who have it all. They drive expensive cars , live in large, beautiful houses in the best communities and have lucrative, prestigious jobs.

They volunteer in the community, drive the carpool, bring just the right dish to the neighborhood gathering and casually deliver a hand-made hostess gift which strikes just the right note - and look gorgeous doing it. They make tons of money, their houses are decorated just so and beautifully landscaped. They're attractive, smart, fun, and everyone envies their perfect marriages. Their kids are cute, smart, athletically gifted and well-behaved, with excellent grades and participation in many extra-curriculars (they excel in all of them). They're the people everyone wants to be around. Many of us wish for such perfect lives.  So who are these amazing specimens of humanity, these superachieving individuals who walk among us? 

Well, around here we just call them our neighbors, colleagues and friends. I live in a community in which it seems that everyone is super-human. Everyone is outstanding, the best of the best. High schoolers with 4.5 GPAs (on a scale of 0-4.0) worry that they won't be accepted to the colleges of their choice.  We must be thin, beautiful, smart, athletic and likable. There is so much focus on being the best that many people struggle with anxiety and depression, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts.  If you're a highly intelligent person who also happens to be a gifted athlete you should stand out - but there are so many highly intelligent gifted athletes here that it creates this intense push to rise to the top of a group of people who are the cream of the crop.  And for those who have any learning issues, or those who are not athletic or even - gasp! - don't like sports, it can feel like there's something wrong with you.  

In fact, oddly, even those who are the cream of the cream of the crop seem to feel something is missing. They always try their best but it still doesn't seem good enough.  Does our community put too much pressure on all of us to achieve? Are we the ones putting pressure on ourselves? When you have it all and you still feel like it's not enough, you may be a perfectionist. In fact, those of us who have loving families and a safe place to live already have everything that matters, so why are we constantly striving and striving for more, more, more?  Not necessarily striving for material things, but working so hard, always doing, never pausing to pat ourselves on the back and appreciate just how great our lives really are? 

 CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST EPISODE ON BRENE BROWN'S GUIDEPOSTS FOR WHOLEHEARTED LIVING!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST EPISODE ON BRENE BROWN'S GUIDEPOSTS FOR WHOLEHEARTED LIVING!

If any of this resonates with you, listen to Episode 7 of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast. In it, I talk about Brené Brown's book The Gifts of Imperfection. I recommend this book to so many of my clients. It helped me understand how perfectionism was holding me back in my own life, and what can be done about it. 

One of the problems with perfectionism is that is prevents us from truly enjoying life. Instead of living in the present moment, appreciating being alive, we are looking outside of ourselves, comparing ourselves to our friends and neighbors and imagining that their lives are so much better than ours. While we are striving to compete and be the best, we are presenting an image to the outside world which isn't authentic because we don't want anyone to know how small we feel. And it gets in the way of having deep, meaningful relationships with others because there is so much focus on pretending to be fine.  

For more on this subject, check out my upcoming workshops, learn more about The Daring Way™,  or contact me about working together in individual therapy, clinical supervision and consultation or schedule a burnout prevention consultAnd if you'd like to hear more from me you can sign up for my occasional newsletter! I don’t send them out unless I have something I want you to know, and you can unsubscribe any time you want. You can also follow me  on TwitterFacebookPinterestInstagram and Google+. To listen to my podcast, search the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and (coming soon) Google Play. Or click here to listen via my website. 

What did you think of this Podcast Episode 7? I'd love to hear your comments! You can also rate and review the podcast on iTunes by clicking here. If you like it, please consider subscribing! 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

 

 

Connecting With Your Own Needs: Vulnerability in Action

Connecting With Your Own Needs: Vulnerability in Action An Interview with Dr. Agnes Wainman, the Self Care Activist

Recently I was fortunate that Dr. Agnes Wainman of London Psychological Services in Ontario, Canada - also known as The Self Care Activist - allowed me to interview her about self care for The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast. 

Agnes and I had an interesting (and funny, in my opinion) interview in which we discussed society's unreasonable, unrealistic and unattainable expectations of women which encourage us to neglect our own needs and see self care as indulgent. We talked about how social media can make our relationships with our children, our partners, our friends and ourselves more difficult than they need to be. Agnes shared her own journey from "burned out to blissed out" as a mother of newborn twins and doctoral student and the lessons she learned about vulnerability and authentic connection. She shocked me by telling me what Canada does to support new mothers! 

 CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE #16 WITH DR. AGNES WAINMAN

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO LISTEN TO PODCAST EPISODE #16 WITH DR. AGNES WAINMAN

Click on the image to listen to Episode 16 of the podcast and if you'd like to hear more of what Agnes has to say, check out her website: www.londonps.ca or visit her YouTube channel where she shares tips and tricks to incorporate self care into your life.  

What did you think of this episode? I'd love to hear your comments! You can also rate and review the podcast on iTunes by clicking here. And if you'd like to hear more from me you can sign up for my occasional newsletter! I don’t send them out unless I have something I want you to know, and you can unsubscribe any time you want. You can also follow me  on TwitterFacebookPinterestInstagram and Google+. To listen to my weekly podcast, search the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and (coming soon) Google Play. Or click here to listen via my website. 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Year End Reflections

It's the eve of a new year and if you're like me you might be filled with a mix of hopefulness, excitement, worry, dread and maybe even a little bit of shame about what you should have done over the past 364 days or what you should do (and might feel doubtful about doing) in the year ahead.  

Those feelings of worry and shame squelch the excitement and anticipation of a new year filled with possibilities. And the reality is, even though the calendar is changing over tomorrow to a new year, every day is filled with possibility. I decided last year around this time that resolutions don't work for me. Rather, I want to begin each year with intentions for the year ahead.  A lot can change in a year, and your intentions can evolve as the year progresses.

  Click on the image to listen to Podcast Episode 15: Year End Reflections

Click on the image to listen to Podcast Episode 15: Year End Reflections

I've been reflecting on the past year. Professionally, I've achieved the goals I've set for myself and many more. For example, I don't think in January I was really expecting to have launched a podcast. It was an idea I was toying with, and I may have even told people about that plan, but there was definitely a part of me - a scared, insecure part - that didn't think it would happen. That part of me was wrong, and I'm glad I didn't let those fears stop me from moving forward. I've been very happy with the success of the podcast so far! This year I went to California for the first time, and I started Sensorimotor Psychotherapy training. As of this time last year I hadn't planned on either of those things. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that today I may feel unsure of whether I'll be able to accomplish what I want to in 2016, but the year will unfold with surprises that will surpass what I can envision doing now.

With that in mind, my intentions for 2016 are to enjoy music, allow self-love, practice present-moment awareness, and listen to my body. I'm actually capable of doing all of those things, because they're all within my control, and there is no getting them wrong. I like the idea of setting intentions that allow me to be human, rather than something like "I will lose 10 pounds." I'm a work in progress. We all are! 

Set Intentions Instead of Resolutions

So what do you want to achieve in 2016? Are there any intentions you can set for yourself in the coming year which will allow you to feel a sense of accomplishment on December 31, 2016? What happens when you set your intentions with love rather than self-criticism? I'd love to hear your intentions in the comment below! 

And if one of your intentions for 2016 is to work on healing your trauma, that's one I can help you accomplish if you live in Maryland. Get in touch with me via e-mail at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com or by phone at (443) 510-1048. If you'd like to hear more of what I have to say you can find me in lots of places online. For more from me, sign up for my occasional newsletter! I don’t send them out unless I have something I want you to know, and you can unsubscribe any time you want. You can also follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterestInstagram and Google+. To listen to my weekly podcast, search the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and (coming soon) Google Play. Or click here to listen via my website. 

Happy New Year!! 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

3 Strategies to Survive the Holidays & Thrive All Year

3 Holiday Survival Strategies to Help You Thrive All Year Long

Greetings! In Episode 12 of The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast (click here to listen) I discussed reasons why the holidays are hard for many of us. Rather than being the most joyful time of the year, November through February is often the most stressful time of the year. If that resonates for you, then keep reading. I'm going to give you three easy strategies for surviving the holidays which you can use every day. 

The holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy and light, but memories of loved ones who aren't there can bring painful emotions to the surface. Feelings of loss related to wishing for a happier childhood frequently arise at this time of year.

And for those of us who experienced feeling unwanted, abandoned, ignored, overlooked, or not (good/pretty/smart/successful/loved/rich/thin...fill in the blank)  _______ enough in our childhood and teenage years, gathering with family can be more painful than fun. Unspoken resentment and unresolved tension interfere with the closeness and loving warmth we wish for. Read on below to learn how to get through it with your sense of well-being intact.

Survive and Thrive This Holiday Season!

Holiday Survival Strategies:

It's a stressful time of year for many reasons, but to get through it feeling connected to your values, in control and emotionally safe, these three strategies can help.

1. Set Boundaries.

Do you know what it means to set boundaries? The best way I know to explain boundaries is this: Setting boundaries means defining what is okay and what is not okay for you. Here's how it works:

For example, let's say you always gather with your extended family at your mother's house for Christmas. You want to go because it's your family tradition and it's the only time your whole family gathers together. However, your relationship with your mother is strained and you feel uncomfortable being around her. She wasn't really there for you emotionally when you were little and you aren't close with her now. She is critical of you to your face and talks about you negatively behind your back to your siblings. Furthermore, things usually get ugly after dinner when people have been drinking and the sarcastic remarks, passive-aggressive comments and criticism start coming out. Last year you and your uncle got into a huge argument and it hasn't been addressed since you stormed out that night.

Survive the holidays and thrive all year

You plan to attend this annual ritual this year as always, but you're having mixed emotions. Part of you is hoping that this year will be different, that your mom will be kind and loving toward you and that you and your uncle will get along better. But another part of you is feeling really anxious about going, with the dread increasing daily. You feel you have only two options: go and be miserable or stay home and feel guilty. Here's how to set boundaries:  

First, ask yourself what you need. This can be difficult if you usually make decisions based on what other people need and want, rather than your own thoughts and feelings. Consider that you have many options to choose from, and pick one that feels right to you. You may decide to stay home and not attend the gathering at all. Or maybe you would prefer to go, but not hang around after dinner when things start getting wild. Would it feel better to talk to your uncle beforehand and clear the air about what happened last year? Maybe you'd like to talk to your mom about visiting her on a different day around the holidays, when there is less stress and tension. You can choose how you want to show up - literally and figuratively - for this event. Let your own thoughts and feelings be your guide. It may be helpful to discuss your feelings with a trusted friend or journal about it. Once you've come up with a plan for how you want to deal with the issue of attending the family gathering, talk to your mom about your plans. Let her know what you will be doing this year by speaking directly and without anger. If setting boundaries is new for you, it may be helpful to practice saying this in a mirror so you can feel more confident. And if this is a new communication style within your family your mom may balk at hearing that your plans are different from the usual tradition. That doesn't mean you are wrong to speak up for what you need. Communicating directly and speaking your truth in a loving way is not wrong. In fact, it's because you love your family (and yourself) that you want to find a way to attend an important event that feels right for you, so you and your can family enjoy being together.  This is true year round, not only during the holidays.

2. Manage Your Expectations.

As mentioned above, sometimes we have ideas about how we hope things are going to be when we interact with our families. We have these ideas even though we've had decades of experience interacting with family members, and the communication may not have changed over all those years. So there's a fantasy of how you want things to be, and then there is the reality of how it's more likely to go. Knowing this, it can be helpful to anticipate issues which might arise and plan for how you will deal with them if they happen.

For example, although you wish your mom would be kind, loving and supportive toward you this Christmas, the reality is that she doesn't communicate that way (even if she has those feelings on the inside). You can't control her behavior. What can you control? Anticipating what might trigger you during the visit helps you plan ahead, which allows you to feel more in control. For one thing, you can plan for how you might address it if your mother is critical of you.  On the other hand, if you are caught up in the fantasy of this idealized, perfect family visit, that criticism feels more hurtful because you're surprised and disappointed that things didn't go the way you hoped they would.

Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast

This is also a chance to set boundaries. Ask yourself what you need. What would you like to tell your mom about what is okay and what is not okay with you? Maybe you decide that when she begins criticizing you, you will leave. You can also try ignoring her or changing the subject when the criticism starts. Or you can address it with her directly. How you go about it is up to you, but you have the right to set boundaries with your family so you can feel emotionally safe. Especially if your family of origin was abusive, you owe it to yourself and to your children, if you have them, to set boundaries. Children are stuck in these family conflicts with little to no power over what happens. They're depending on you to keep them safe.

Maybe Uncle Freddie gets drunk every year at dinner and begins yelling at his daughter, your cousin Annie. As much as you hate seeing him do this every year, you feel powerless to do anything about it. Again, you can't control his behavior, but knowing that this is likely to happen you can plan for how you will handle it. It is okay to leave the room when you feel uncomfortable, and you can be as direct as you like in explaining your reason for doing so. When others are behaving inappropriately or abusively you don't owe them an explanation, but you can still excuse yourself without being hurtful if you've anticipated what might come up and how you'll handle it. Setting boundaries with love can help you maintain the relationships you value without feeling as if you are tolerating being mistreated. Once again, managing your expectations about your interactions with family members is something you can do year round. 

3. Practice Self Care. 

Self care is another concept which we often hear about but don't always understand. Self care means treating yourself the way you'd treat someone you love. So you don't have to subject yourself to doing what you've always done for the holidays if you don't enjoy it. What would make you feel good during this time of year? This can be a good time to catch up on rest and relaxation. If it's a particularly sad, painful time for you, allowing yourself to feel your emotions and finding ways to comfort yourself can help. As suggested above, ask yourself what you need. Tune into what your body and mind are telling you and let that be your guide. 

Do you give yourself time to feel your feelings, or are you more likely to push through and try to ignore feelings which may get in the way of you completing everything on your to-do list? Practicing self care can be as simple as making time to eat when you are hungry, rather than skipping meals in favor of attending to other responsibilities. Stopping work to go to the bathroom is an act of self care. Getting enough sleep at night is part of a self care practice. Setting boundaries, moving your body daily, taking time to read for pleasure, listening to music, walking in nature, soaking in a hot bath, meditation, spending time doing things you love - all of these are examples of self care. What does self care look like for you? 

I write frequently about self care and talk about it on The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast. Here are several articles I've written on this subject.

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Therapists Share Their Self Care Tips 

Rethinking Self Care

How Self Care Helps Me Succeed In Business

Using Self Care to Nourish Your Soul and Fall In Love With Yourself

Self Care Apps Recommended by Therapists

Using Self Care to Prevent Burnout

Hopefully these will help you understand why you deserve to make self care an important part of your routine. And if the sadness you feel this time of year is not going away, consider getting in touch with me (if you're in Maryland) or another therapist to get started feeling better. You might be surprised how much better you can feel.

If you’d like to talk to me about working together click here or send me an e-mail at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com. You can reach me by phone at (443) 510-1048. For more from me, sign up for my occasional newsletter! I don’t send them out unless I have something I want you to know, and you can unsubscribe any time you want. You can also follow me onTwitterFacebookPinterestInstagram and Google+. To listen to my weekly podcast, search the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and (coming soon) Google Play. Or click here to listen via my website. 

I wish you peace this holiday and a joyful New Year!

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

Using Self Care to Prevent Burnout - Mari Lee shares her story

Using self care to prevent burnout -

My interview with Mari Lee, LMFT, CSAT-S

 
  CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST EPISODE WITH MARI LEE, LMFT, CSAT-S!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST EPISODE WITH MARI LEE, LMFT, CSAT-S!

Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast

 

Recently I was honored to speak with psychotherapist, author, speaker and practice-building coach Mari Lee, LMFT, CSAT on the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast. Mari has a private practice in Glendora, California working with sex and porn addiction and she has written books about this subject. She is also a coach helping therapists build their private practices. On her website, www.thecounselorscoach.com, she offers many tools and resources for therapists. 

Click here to listen to the podcast, or click on the image of Episode 14! 

Mari shares her story of switching careers in midlife to become a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Although she loved her work, she quickly realized she was on a fast train to burnout city. I've been on that train and it can be really hard to get off! That's one reason I admire Mari so much. She realized she needed to make changes in her life in order to have balance and practice self care. She was able to redesign her private practice, which allowed her to bring her best self to her work with her clients, while finding time to write books, do public speaking and teach courses online. Mari shares how she is able to live with balance between her work and personal life. Listen in to this episode to learn what Mari did to build creativity into her time and create additional revenue streams outside of her direct work with clients. 

I so appreciate Mari taking the time to share her journey with us. Whether or not you're a therapist, her message about using self care to prevent burnout is one that any of us can learn from. Listen in and enjoy this interesting conversation between two therapists about bringing authenticity to work and loving what you do every day.

 

Finding Safety in An Unsafe World

Update: As of March 4, 2016, the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast has a new name: Therapy Chat! It's still found in the same locations online - my website, as well as iTunes, Stitcher and (soon) Google Play.  So when you listen to the podcast episode attached to this article, don't be confused! 

Finding Safety in An Unsafe World

There have been a lot of horrible things in the news lately. There was another mass shooting just yesterday. Terrible things are always happening: violence, hatred, fear, oppression...they all seem to go together, don't they? Is this inevitable?

These are scary times.

Scary things are going on. We're more aware than ever before of our shared humanity. Has it gotten worse or was it always like this? Globalization is bringing our world together. Our young people are growing up learning that people all over the world share the same feelings. We all want to be safe and free. 

I remember when I was a child of about 9 reading a short news article in our local paper. It said that a large number of people - maybe 1000, or 10,000 or even 100,000 - had died when a landslide happened in East Asia. I wondered at this story, feeling sad and scared. I was reassured by an adult who told me that it was nature's way of correcting the overpopulation in that country. Those humans who died were individuals with their own stories, their own hopes and dreams, just like me. Their lives mattered. But in that time, we were so detached from a reality of life different from our own here in the U.S. that it could seem as if people in faraway places we never saw were not actually humans like ourselves. Those people who lost their lives were not "others." That concept creates an artificial distance between us. Distancing ourselves from others' pain can help us feel safer, but it also creates disconnection.

Those people who died that day, and everyone who has died before and since, regardless of geographic location, culture, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, sexual identity, skin color, hair color, eye color, language or any other characteristic wanted safety, belonging, connection and control over their own lives just like you and I. 

Now, thanks to global 24-hour news and the internet, we can see the devastation and pain when an earthquake or tsunami destroys a town, or when flooding or tornadoes hit and people lose shelter and suffer injury or death. We see the humanity of those who are affected. We witness their pain and loss, and we can feel empathy for them and gratitude that we were not directly impacted. But it can feel like too much.

Sometimes it feels like too much.

It's too painful. Watching and reading news of terrorist attacks around the world is so painful. We may want and need to turn away because the pain is too much for us to bear. We begin to fear that we may be at risk of experiencing this same pain and loss. What if terrorists attack here? How will we be safe? How can we keep our loved ones safe?

Please know, if you have trauma, such stories can trigger trauma symptoms which can sneak up on you. Not sure if you might have trauma? Read this post.

I talk about this often with my clients.  Suddenly you have a general sense of unease which becomes a feeling of being unsafe. Next thing you know you've switched into autopilot, survival mode. When you're in this mode you're usually not consciously aware of it. So check in with yourself: Am I absentmindedly checking Facebook? Obsessively checking e-mail? Wanting to micromanage my kids or my spouse? Suddenly forgetting about self care? Feeling stuck, immobilized? Click here for a short body scan mindfulness exercise to help you get centered and grounded in your body. 

I'm scared! What can I do?

So why do these bad things happen? The world's problems are so complex. Are the natural disasters caused by climate change? Well, if so, what can be done about that? Some are saying our planet isn't going to survive unless something changes. It's a terrifying thought! What can be done to protect the Earth for our children's children? It can feel hopeless. I see the feeling of powerlessness to effect change as the result of our overwhelming anxiety and fear. In other words, although it may feel like a hopeless situation and you may feel powerless to make a difference, that is not reality. You can take action if you want to change the way the world is.  As Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has!"  That's one of my very favorite quotes. 

  CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO THERAPY CHAT PODCAST EPISODE 13!

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO LISTEN TO THERAPY CHAT PODCAST EPISODE 13!

Using the example of climate change, if you feel worried about it, ask yourself what one small change you can make that will have a ripple effect. Can you teach your children not to litter? Can you make a change in what you consume? Can you donate old clothing instead of throwing it out? Post a Facebook status that raises awareness of the problem? Make a donation to an organization that is working to address the problem? Volunteer to pick up litter on a road in your town one Saturday? 

Many of us are feeling fear and a sense of helplessness from the violence we see and hear about. Most recently the terrorist attacks in Beirut and Paris this month have created fear that we won't be able to stay safe. With so much anger, hatred, violence and talk of vengeance, are these problems ever going to get better? And will we be safe? 

  Image copyright Laura   Reagan LCSW-C  Psychotherapy Services, LLC 2015. All rights reserved.

Image copyright Laura Reagan LCSW-C  Psychotherapy Services, LLC 2015. All rights reserved.

I'll quote Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that." Our discussion about terrorism and violence in general tends to be overly simplistic. We break it down into "good guys" and "bad guys." There are no good guys and bad guys! There is just us! We can do good things and we can do bad things. 

We look at people who do bad things with disgust and wonder how they can be so cruel. Are they just bad people? Maybe they were born bad. How can they hurt others and seemingly not care? How can they be so heartless? It would seem that people who commit acts of terrorism actually take pleasure in hurting others, torturing them and seeing them suffer. This is incomprehensible to most of us.

Yet some voices call loudly for vengeance, saying the only way to solve the problem of terrorism, to keep us - the good guys - safe, is to blow 'em up! Nuke 'em off the face of the earth! Or capture them and torture them until they admit who their leaders are so we can kill them! Harsh, yes, but they deserve it for what they've done to the good guys! Bad guys deserve what they get! We hear a lot of bloodthirsty cries for justice - swift and deadly. I'll be clear that these are not my views. I feel that anyone who hurts someone else should be held accountable with a justice process that is fairly and evenly administered. However, violence begets violence. If we react with vengeance instead of understanding the cause of the behavior and addressing that, we do not resolve the problem. 

Often people who use violence and vengeance to express their pain use their interpretation of religious directives to justify hateful and destructive behavior toward various groups based on ethnicity or culture. We, the good guys, know this is wrong. But Xenophobia (defined as fear of what is strange or different) tends to be our knee-jerk reaction. How is that any different from the attitudes driving terrorists? 

Then what's the answer? Or is it hopeless?

The opposite of this hatred and fear is empathy and compassion. What if we believe that the people who commit acts of terrorism and violence are human beings like ourselves who feel justified in their actions? What if they think their behavior is justified because of their own desire for vengeance related to some hurt and pain they feel? What if we could look at the conditions that create whole groups of people who fear and hate other groups of people and address the underlying causes? I know that sounds complicated but it really isn't as hard as it seems. 

Sociologists and other human behavior researchers have been studying the causes and solutions to these issues for years. What if we looked at the causes of violence, oppression, racism, misogyny and actually addressed the underlying reasons for those attitudes and behaviors? What if we looked at each other as fellow humans, regardless of what makes us different from one another? Could we live more peacefully, feeling safer and having more freedom and ease if we were able to consider that everyone else is doing their best in a given moment? I'm no better than you and you're no better than me. What if we are all equally worthy of love, acceptance and approval? Because, whether or not we believe it, it's actually true. As humans, no one is better, and no one is less than another. How might things be if we lived this way?

Wanting everything to be okay

As for feeling that we need to have some reassurance that we will stay safe and that nothing bad will happen to us or the people we love, we don't get that. There is none. Bad things will happen. We will hurt. And we will get through them and we can be okay. 

I used to believe that a good life is one in which I would always be happy, or at least content, and nothing bad would happen to me. I still want to believe that I can get through life feeling safe from pain and most importantly, that I won't lose the people I love. I don't know if any of you have felt this way. I know I'm not alone in the feeling. But I don't feel this way because it's how life is, or how it's supposed to be.

I feel this particularly deeply because of the fact that in my early years I did experience loss of people who were most important to me. It took a long time for me to process how these losses affected me. So the worry about losing the most important people in my life comes from that early experience. Now that I know that and now that I've processed the pain of that loss, I can live in the reality that nothing is certain. No matter what I do, there is really no way to insulate myself from the possibility that I might lose the people I love. 

In some small ways, my children growing up can be an experience of loss. It's a process of losing the close connection we've had their entire lives. It is tempting to try to hold on to them in a way that prevents them from becoming independent adults, to serve my own desire to feel connected and loved. But that's actually not healthy for them or for me. Being conscious of that feeling of wanting to keep them close to fulfill my own needs keeps me in check, and I set boundaries on my role in their lives to create a healthy relationship. Setting boundaries (defined as what's okay and what's not okay with me) isn't just a one time thing. As we all grow, the boundaries are re-drawn. The relationship isn't static, so the boundaries must change too. 

So how do we live with the reality that we can't possibly prevent every bad thing from happening, no matter what we do? How do we go through life and be okay, even when something bad can happen that might take us by surprise? Well, one way to do it is to live your life worrying about every possible risk and taking steps to avoid it. I wouldn't recommend this strategy since it could eventually make you feel afraid to leave the house with no one wanting to be around you because you worry so much you make everyone else nervous. 

 Image copyright Laura Reagan LCSW-C  Psychotherapy Services, LLC 2015. All rights reserved.

Image copyright Laura Reagan LCSW-C  Psychotherapy Services, LLC 2015. All rights reserved.

Another option is to pretend everything is fine even though inside you're dreading the moment when everything falls apart. This strategy often leads to feeling disconnected from yourself because you get so good at ignoring that constant worry that you don't really know how you feel anymore. People who do this will sometimes say, "I don't know who I am anymore. What do I like? I have no idea." Those of us who do this frequently find ourselves taking temporary comfort in numbing out through watching TV, becoming absorbed in social media, binge watching DVDs, compulsively eating, shopping, using sex, gambling or substance abuse to escape. But does it make you feel safe? Not really. There will be loss. You will suffer at points. It's the human experience.

Getting grounded 

So what does help? How can we go through life trying to be okay if we can't be 100% sure that nothing bad will happen to us or the people we love? For me, two things have helped. First, healing from the traumatic experiences of my life by working for much of my adult life (starting at age 29) to process my trauma from those early losses I mentioned and other painful experiences has helped me to feel much safer in the world. The second part of my healing, and I share this in hopes that it will help you too, is implementing a self care practice.

Being grounded means being in the present moment, in your body, here and now. From what I've experienced personally and witnessed in others, any regular practice which makes you feel grounded is key to being present in your body, mindfully aware. I can say unequivocally that when I feel grounded and centered in my body I feel safe and I'm not worried about anything happening to me or the people I love.  I wrote a blog post about getting grounded when trauma symptoms are triggered. It, and the graphic above, explain basic grounding techniques. Click here to read the post.

Here and now. This moment is literally all we have. We truly cannot know what's going to happen next, in any area of our lives. Having control is only an illusion. I saw a beautiful quote by Johannes Wolfgang von Goethe which read, "I say to the moment: 'stay now! You are so beautiful!'" But do we really stop and appreciate the moments of happiness we experience? I've found myself in the middle of a joyful moment worrying when it's going to end rather than just being. Have you ever done that?

Finding gratitude

So how can you feel okay, knowing there is no guarantee of what will happen next? Well, let me ask you - are you safe right now? Can you be okay in this moment? Check in with yourself. What are you feeling? What are the emotions? The thoughts? What body sensations do you notice? What do you hear? How is your breathing? Can you experience gratitude for this moment that you're allowing yourself right now, just to feel how you are? Can you be okay right now, even if everything is not okay? Right now you're safe. In this moment, there is nothing you have to do or be other than just being you. 

Right now, as you are, without changing anything about yourself, you are enough. See if you can take a deep breath and just let that wash over you. You don't have to do anything else right now besides just be. This is the only moment. There is nothing to think about that happened before, and nothing to think about doing next. There is this moment, right now. Just breathe into it. And as you are doing this, just being, ask yourself if there is anything you can feel gratitude for right now. Sometimes when we feel really good it can be a feeling of gratitude for how well things are going. And if there are some things which aren't going so well, or things you're worried about, see if you can find anything that you can feel gratitude for. 

In any moment, as worried and stuck as I might feel, if I try I can always find something to experience gratitude for. When I feel critical of my body or discouraged with myself for getting out of my regular workout routine, I can experience a feeling of gratitude that it's not too late, that my body is strong and I don't have any health problems at the moment to prevent me from being able to go ahead and do something active like stretch, take my dog for a walk, do yoga or go to the gym. 

Sometimes it's simply helpful to notice that right now, in this moment, I and the people I love are all okay. No one is hurt or sick and we all love each other. That can help me stay grounded and present instead of worrying what if something bad happens?  Another practice I find helpful is listening to guided meditations. Click here for a guided meditation I recorded to help with grounding, gratitude and creating a sense of safety for yourself and the world. 

Thanks for reading my longer-than-usual post.  I hope you found it useful in these scary times. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below! I'd love to hear from you.

If you’d like to talk to me about working together click here or send me an e-mail at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com. You can reach me by phone at (443) 510-1048. For more from me, sign up for my occasional newsletter! I don’t send them out unless I have something I want you to know, and you can unsubscribe any time you want. You can also follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterestInstagram and Google+. To listen to my weekly podcast, search the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and (coming soon) Google Play. Or click here to listen via my website. 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

 

3 Reasons You Might Not Be Feeling It During the Holidays

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!" But not for everyone.

 

It's that time of year again, late November. Time for holiday cheer in all of its forms. It starts with everything pumpkin spice followed by turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie, lights, wreaths, peppermint mocha, evergreen trees and family gatherings. At the tail end of the season you have  New Year's parties and resolutions for the year ahead.

Holiday cheer

For some of us, this is a time of year to look forward to with excitement and joy. We envision happy reunions with loved ones who live nearby and those who don't visit as often. Everyone is laughing, enjoying time together, feeling gratitude, contentment and peace. There are parties to attend, heartfelt gifts to give and receive, special traditions and family celebrations which have been repeated year after year. 

Not everyone is feeling the love, though. For many of us, the holidays are quite the opposite. My clients often share that the holidays are the most difficult time of year. Why? I will give you three good reasons below. In my next two posts I will talk about ways to survive, and even thrive during what can be a tough time for so many of us. Read on below to find out why my clients say that the holidays can be the most stressful times of the year, rather than the most joyful. If you've ever felt the holidays are more challenging than fun, tune in to the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast to hear strategies for making this time of year more bearable! You can listen to the podcast episode on this topic by clicking on the image below. 

 CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THIS ARTICLE ON THE PODCAST 

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THIS ARTICLE ON THE PODCAST 


1. You want to feel excited about the holidays, but you can't be with the people you love. 

Holidays can feel lonely
  • You may have lost someone you love in the past year. The first everything without them is hard, but the holidays seem to hit particularly hard. It might feel like you are just going through the motions. Even if their loss is not new, you're reminded of the pain of missing them every holiday.
  • Maybe this is your first Thanksgiving or [insert the winter holiday you celebrate] since an important long term relationship ended. Being suddenly single at the family gathering can feel like you have all eyes on you as you try to act normal and hope no one will ask about why you and your ex aren't together anymore.
  • Perhaps you can't be with your family, and it just doesn't feel right celebrating the holidays away from the people you love. Whether you're a deployed military member or the family left back home, it's hard to be away from the people you love at the holidays. Sometimes geographical distance just makes it too hard to visit at the time of the year which is, let's face it, the most expensive and stressful time for air travel. You may have limited time off from work and spending those precious days hustling through airports or driving on congested roadways for a short visit, only to turn around and do it again to get back home, may be less than appealing.
  • Maybe you're divorced and dreading dividing holiday time with the kids between you and your ex-spouse. 
  • You might be local, but you're staffing the hospital, fire or police station, mobile crisis team or other 24/7 job so your co-workers can be home with their families. While you love your job, it does put a damper on holiday celebrations. Don't forget to take care of yourself - helpers need help too! 

 

 

2.  Trying to create the "perfect" holiday is stressing you out! 

  • Consumerism is at an all time high during the holidays. We all know that stores have started putting up Christmas displays sometimes even before Halloween. Black Friday, the annual shopping day after Thanksgiving that supposedly offers the best sales has creeped into Thanksgiving, and there have been a lot of complaints about intruding on this annual holiday and forcing retail store employees to miss their families' celebrations.
  • You may feel pressure to find the "perfect" gift for everyone on your list. You worry about finding the right combination of thoughtful and affordable for each person and your list is growing year after year! 
  • You feel the "proper" way to celebrate the holidays is to decorate your house just so. This means putting up lights outside, decorating with wreaths, electric candles in the windows, and setting just the right festive tone. It has to look better than everyone else's house, and can't be the same as what you did last year. This is expensive, time consuming and can be stressful for you and anyone who is helping you with all of this setup. 
  • The holidays can put a huge strain on finances! When you add up the costs of greeting cards, postage, home decorations, holiday meals for large numbers of people, buying the right outfit for each holiday party you attend, alcohol and travel, you have quite a large amount above your usual monthly budget. And for many of us, there is no extra pay in the months of November and December to cover these expenses. 
  • You're putting pressure on yourself to create perfect holiday memories. Buying children expensive gifts can be a way that parents try to ensure their kids' happiness. If your financial situation is strained you may find yourself comparing the number of gifts you're giving your children for Christmas or Hanukkah with what other families are doing and feeling you come up short. This can cause a lot of shame at this time of year.  If you put too much pressure on yourself to create a "perfect" family, click here! 

3.  You can't stand getting together with your family of origin.

 Feeling alone? Left out in the cold?

Feeling alone? Left out in the cold?

  • If you had a less-than-happy childhood, those feelings frequently come to a head at this time of year. When gathering with extended family, unresolved and unspoken issues can be the elephant in the room. No one is willing to talk about it, but everyone knows it's there - Tommy and Joey don't get along, and Mom and Dad keep trying to get them to spend time together. Or Uncle Fred is creepy and everyone feels uncomfortable around him, but no one feels like they can speak up. There are secret alliances and certain people being kept in the dark to avoid upsetting anyone. The kids, who can usually sense what's really going on, may act out, feeling the stress and tension that is palpable while the adults seem oblivious.
  • Some family members may think of family gatherings as a time to pretend to be one big happy family, while others are just waiting for the chance to air their grievances. Or maybe everyone is pretending to be happy through clenched teeth, but once the alcohol starts flowing people are saying what they really think. Longstanding jealousy and resentment between siblings tends to show up in these situations. Part of us is hoping to have that perfect holiday that we think everyone else enjoys, while another part of us is dreading seeing these people again.  

We get the message that we are supposed to love the holiday season, but for those who feel disappointment and grief over what's missing, it can be overwhelming. If you're in Maryland and you'd like some support in getting through the holidays click here to see if working together would be a good fit. You can also e-mail me at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com or call me at (443) 510-1048.

I'll write more about getting through the holidays soon and I'm planning to host some workshops on self care during this festive and stressful time of year. Get in touch with me if you'd like more info on that!

Want to hear more of what I have to say? You can sign up for my newsletter. I'm not one to bombard you with newsletters and clog up your inbox. I send them every so often when I have something to say that I think you might find useful. You can also follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterest & Google+

And to listen to The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast you can click here!  Please consider leaving a review on iTunes if you like it!

Warmly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C




Think You Might Have Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Do you have Seasonal Affective Disorder or are you simply sad? 

I often hear from clients that the winter months are hard. A common statement is, "I think I have Seasonal Affective Disorder." Seasonal Affective Disorder refers to having less energy and increased depressive symptoms at certain times of year, particularly during the Fall and Winter months. It is thought that less sunlight during the winter interrupts the body's cicadian rhythms and causes changes in Serotonin and Melatonin levels, causing mood changes and sleep issues. You can find more detailed information about the definition, causes, risk factors and treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder by visiting the Mayo Clinic website

Much has been written about Seasonal Affective Disorder. I invite you to consider another possible cause for this seasonal sadness. Trauma anniversaries can cause intense feelings at certain times of the year. A trauma anniversary is the date that something traumatic happened in your life. I will explain more below.

winter tree

Susan felt that her symptoms were completely unexplainable and unpredictable, but when talking in more depth about the story of her childhood and the loss of her mother, she revealed that her mother died on May 31. She also pointed out that she never had a chance to grieve her mother's death since she was too busy trying to survive in an abusive home without her only protector. Her father was not attuned to her emotional needs and he lacked the ability to cope with his own grief. 

Susan's annual experience of overwhelming depression in June makes sense when you consider that her mother died at the end of May, so that incredible pain she experienced throughout the month of June 28 years ago, when she was 12, was never processed. Trauma is held in the body, and feelings which are outside of our conscious awareness can show up seemingly at random. You can learn more about this by reading Bessel van der Kolk's book "The Body Keeps The Score," Peter Levine's "In An Unspoken Voice,"  Babette Rothschild's "The Body Remembers," and many other books on the subject of trauma and the body.

Considering whether there is any explanation which may relate to prior traumatic experiences helps us take back control of our own wellbeing.  Susan's body was reminding her every June of the deeply painful loss of her mother. She struggled all year with depression, which is common for survivors of childhood abuse, and in June it became unbearable every year. Susan was able to break this annual cycle and take back control of her emotional and physical health by working with a therapist specializing in trauma. She was able to process these traumatic experiences and she felt better than she had ever thought possible.

*Susan is not a real person. Her story is a composite of many stories clients have shared about their trauma anniversaries. 


This is by no means a comprehensive list of traumatic experiences. If you believe you have experienced trauma, and you are ready to start the healing process, find a qualified therapist who has specialized training in trauma. As difficult as it may be to begin therapy for trauma, it is so worthwhile to find out that you can feel better than you ever thought you could. I know this is true because I have personally witnessed that transformation. 

If you don't have trauma and you really do have Seasonal Affective Disorder, the article I cited above recommends getting more sunlight, taking a vacation to a sunny place (heck yeah!) and/or trying therapy or medication. If you're not sure, talk to a helping professional, whether your primary care doctor or a therapist. 


Susan's Story

Susan* had experienced depression throughout her adult life. Despite taking medication faithfully, she found herself being hospitalized for inpatient psychiatric treatment once a year -always in June - and she lived in fear of when her next depressive episode would cause this disruption in her life. When Susan was a little girl her father was an alcoholic. Her mother tried to protect her from his rage but when her dad was drinking, he often physically and sexually abused Susan. When Susan was twelve her mother died suddenly, and Susan was left alone with her father, who continued to abuse her until she was able to move out on her own at 18. The effects of her traumatic childhood continued to haunt Susan when I met her at age 40. She explained that she felt sad much of the time and her pain would build throughout the year, until in June she would have a breakdown and end up in the hospital because of suicidal thoughts. 

morning light
sunny winter light

So Do I Have Seasonal Affective Disorder or Trauma? 

So before you assume that you have Seasonal Affective Disorder, ask yourself whether there is a certain date or specific month that is especially difficult for you. Is there any event you can recall which happened at that time of year which might relate to your feelings about this? Have you experienced trauma? It's not always as obvious as we think. Some situations which can cause trauma include:

  • Loss of a parent or other primary caregiver during childhood
  • Sudden, violent or traumatic death of a loved one or close friend
  • Witnessing domestic violence in childhood or being in a physically violent relationship
  • Growing up feeling that your emotional needs weren't met, that no one was there for you
  • Experiencing physical abuse, including being "spanked" with a belt or other object, or being hit in any way when you were a child, even if you don't consider it abusive
  • Being bullied
  • Any unwanted sexual contact, from touching to intercourse without your consent or when you were incapacitated in some way
Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

If you'd like to talk to me about working together click here or send me an e-mail at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com. You can reach me by phone at (443) 510-1048. For more from me, sign up for my newsletter! I send e-mails every so often when I have something to say, and I definitely won't overwhelm your inbox. You can also follow me on TwitterFacebookPinterest and Google+. I have a weekly podcast which you can listen to here.

Source: 

Author Unknown. (2015) Retrieved on November 10, 2015 from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/definition/con-20021047

 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Intuition in the Therapeutic Process: My Interview With Psychotherapist & Coach Keri Nola

An Interview with Intuitive Healer, Coach, Author and Psychotherapist Keri Nola

 

 

Earlier this year I had the privilege of interviewing someone I admire quite a bit, intuitive healer, coach, psychotherapist and author Keri Nola. I held this interview back for a while because I wanted to improve the sound on our recorded call, but I finally decided to let go of my perfectionism and share the interview with you. You can listen by clicking on The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast image to the right. 

In our interview, Keri shares her wisdom gleaned from over ten years of working with clients who have experienced trauma, building a successful practice and having painful experiences of her own. Read more about Keri below the image. 

Intuition in the Therapy Space with Keri Nola

Keri Nola speaks openly from the heart about how she uses intuition and models self care in her practice with clients. Keri has taught me so much about showing up more authentically in my therapy practice. Whether you're a therapist or someone who is interested in different ways that therapists can practice, I hope you'll learn something from my interview with Keri. Listen to our interview and please share your comments! 

For more of what Keri is doing, you can visit her website: www.kerinola.com! There you can request to join her Facebook group for therapists and healers as well.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast. Please visit iTunes to subscribe, download episodes and leave a review. I'd love to know what you think!



Here's where you can find more of what I'm doing: 

Find me on FacebookTwitterPinterest and  Google +You can listen to my podcast here and sign up for my e-mail newsletter here. To speak to me about my services, call me at (443) 510-1048 or send me an e-mail to laura@laurareaganlcswc.com. You can also visit my website to send me a message or view available appointments. 

Wholeheartedly, Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

Forgiveness: Is It Necessary for Healing?

Forgiveness: Is It Necessary for Healing?

I recently attended a beautiful healing retreat in San Diego. I have been thinking about forgiveness a lot lately. While reflecting during the retreat I realized that I've been holding on to some resentment that has been a barrier to my relationships with important people in my life. As painful as it is to have this barrier in those relationships, I realize that it is actually creating a barrier to my own relationship with myself as well. Self-forgiveness is a key factor in being able to forgive anyone else. Taking the time to reflect helped me see that and let go of that old stuff, and as a result, I feel better and I'm relating differently to the important people in my life.

This subject frequently comes up in my therapy sessions with adults who have experienced childhood abuse, neglect, or other traumas. It's also a popular theme in our culture. Click on the image to the right to listen to Episode #10 of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast on forgiveness.In it, I discuss the concept of forgiveness and offer some thoughts on the role of forgiveness in the healing process. I also offer resources for forgiving in a way that is authentic and true. Here's a summary of what I said in the podcast:

In the last episode of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast, I asked whether you'd ever had a loss of relationship with someone with whom you were formerly very close. Something happened which led you to decide that you do not want to communicate with this person anymore. Or maybe you are setting boundaries around the role they have in your life because continuing to be close after what happened feels too painful. 

I raised the point that our culture tells us, both through religion and our popular culture, that forgiveness is a requirement for healing. But what if the person hasn't asked for your forgiveness? What if they deny that they did anything wrong? What if they have passed away, and you will never have the discussion about how their actions hurt you? What if they have apologized in a way that feels hollow? Is forgiveness really about the person who did wrong or about the person who has been hurt? Is it for your healing or theirs? Or the healing of the relationship?

Healing childhood trauma involves allowing oneself to feel the painful emotions we may have been avoiding, consciously or unconsciously.  Before jumping to forgiveness it is important to acknowledge these painful emotions. Self-compassion is extremely helpful to healing these hurts and moving the process of forgiveness forward. I offer resources for increasing self compassion in the podcast.  

Researcher Kristin Neff, PhD has researched and written extensively on the subject of self compassion. I highly recommend her book, "Self Compassion," and her website: http://www.selfcompassion.org/ to facilitate healing and allow forgiveness of yourself and those who have hurt you. 

If you're in the Baltimore area and looking for a therapist to begin or continue your journey of healing childhood trauma, get in touch with me at (443) 510-1048 or laura@laurareaganlcswc.com to talk about how I can help. See below for places to get more of what I have to say. 

Find me on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Google +You can listen to my podcast here and sign up for my e-mail newsletter here.  Check out my website, www.laurareaganlcswc.com for information on upcoming workshopsgroups and retreats. I'd love to talk about how we can work together!  

 

                       What does asking for forgiveness look like?

                     What does asking for forgiveness look like?


  Click on the image to listen to the podcast episode on forgiveness.

Click on the image to listen to the podcast episode on forgiveness.

  Laura Reagan, LCSW-C Psychotherapist, Clinical Supervisor, Podcaster, Consultant

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C Psychotherapist, Clinical Supervisor, Podcaster, Consultant

Mourning the Loss of An Important Relationship

Is there someone in your life with whom you used to be close, but you are no longer on speaking terms? Or maybe you still talk, but rather than the close connection you used to have, things feel strained between you. There is so much unsaid that the tension is palpable. The holidays are coming, and challenging family relationships often come to a head at this time of year. 

In my psychotherapy practice I work with adults who feel worthless, despite success and high achievement in their professional lives. They have everything anyone could want - great jobs, wonderful spouses, children who seem to have it all together...they are the envy of their friends and neighbors.  For many of these clients pain from childhood hurts continues to be a barrier to having close relationships with their families of origin, even into their 40's and 50's. 

I'm not talking about being upset because your big sister wouldn't let you ride her bike, but deeper hurts, like childhood abuse. I'm talking about feeling as a child that your needs weren't being metFeeling like you never mattered, and you may still question whether you are lovable because of it. Deep, painful emotions. Despite trying to "just get over it" and "put the past behind you" as people often advise, these feelings aren't getting better.

Read on below!

In this episode of the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast I talk about the issue of being estranged from someone who used to be so important in your life, whether it is a parent, sibling or friend. Most people who experience the loss of those important relationships feel hurt by the estrangement, even though they may try to avoid thinking about it. In the podcast I talk about some of these feelings and offer some journal prompts to help get to the bottom of what is really felt inside.

Our society tells us forgiveness is key to feeling better in these situations. However, I think sometimes we rush to claim that we have forgiven someone for hurting us without acknowledging to ourselves how hurt we really feel. It's the "right thing to do." But I question whether true forgiveness is possible without first healing the hurt. My next podcast episode will discuss forgiveness in more detail. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your feedback. Have you had this type of rupture in one of your important relationships? Were you able to resolve it? 

Therapy can help if you are struggling to heal from the hurt of a broken relationship with important people. If you're in Maryland, get in touch with me via e-mail at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com, by phone at (443) 510-1048 or send me a message through my website.    

Want to know more? Find me on FacebookTwitterPinterest andGoogle +You can listen to my podcast here and sign up for my e-mail newsletter here.  Check out my website,www.laurareaganlcswc.com for information on upcoming workshopsgroups and retreats. I'd love to talk about how we can work together!  

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

Click on the image above to listen to the podcast episode. 


For more episodes, click on the image above. If you like what you hear, please consider subscribing and leaving an honest review on iTunes! 

 

 Laura Reagan, LCSW-C 

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C 

What Is An Integrative Psychotherapy Practice?

What is an Integrative Psychotherapy Practice?

My Interview With Cathy Canfield, LCSW of Counseling of Alexandria

Earlier this year I began a blog series on integrative psychotherapy. What is integrative psychotherapy, you ask? It's psychotherapy which addresses the mind-body-spirit connection through use of non-verbal, expressive and somatic (body-based) therapies. Today's podcast episode features Cathy Canfield, LCSW, owner of Counseling of Alexandria in Virginia. Cathy was interviewed for my blog earlier this year to talk about how she uses EMDR in her practice. You can read the blog post here

In this podcast episode Cathy was able to talk more in-depth with me about her work. In her practice she offers play therapy, sandtray, EMDR and reiki, and one of her associates is an art therapist. You can listen to the podcast episode by clicking on the image below.

Click on the image below to listen to Cathy's interview.

I hope you'll enjoy what I thought was a fascinating conversation about how Cathy has created an integrative psychotherapy practice. I'd love to hear your comments, please leave them below! 

Want to know more? Find me on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Google +You can listen to my podcast here and sign up for my e-mail newsletter here.  Check out my website, www.laurareaganlcswc.com for information on upcoming workshops, groups and retreats. I'd love to talk about how we can work together! 

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

Click on the image above to listen to past podcast episodes.

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C - Psychotherapist, Blogger, Podcaster, Clinical Supervisor, Consultant

Call me: (443) 510-1048

E-mail me: laura@laurareaganlcswc.com  Click my photo to visit my website.

When You Can't Let Go Of Your Adult Child

Growing Up Is Hard To Do: When You Can't Let Go Of Your College-Aged Child

To Listen to Part 1 on the podcast click here.

Click here to read Part 1 on the blog. 

Letting Go, Part 2 - When You Can't Let Go 

You did it! You successfully launched your adult child. He or she was admitted to the college of his or her dreams and is on the way to a great four years of making lifelong friends, expanding horizons and learning everything he or she will need to know to start a great career or go to grad school. After dropping your child at college, it's your turn to sit back and relax knowing your work is done and your kid, who is now growing up, is ready to take it from here. Time for getting back to being you, instead of feeling like your only purpose in life is raising children. 

There's just one problem. While your child said goodbye and seemingly hasn't looked back, you cried the whole way home and you haven't slept for days. You find yourself having panic attacks when you think about your child living without you there to help. Your child seems to feel ready for this transition, but you? Not so much.

Or maybe that's not you. Maybe you're not crying yourself to sleep in your child's bed every night, but you're dealing with the other extreme. You don't feel much of anything. You've lost your appetite and you feel nauseous most of the time. You have unexplained headaches, feel tired all day long but can't sleep at night, and you're obsessed with texting and calling your child to find out how he or she is doing.  You and your spouse don't seem to have much to talk about, and you when you do try to talk to one another, it frequently ends in an argument. You're not interested in socializing with friends or doing anything, really, except finding out what is really going on with your college-aged kid. Like, obsessing about it. Like, you can't get anything done at work because you're wondering how your child is and what he or she is doing at college.  Or you are home with a long to-do list but you find yourself on Facebook or watching TV all day and ending the day feeling no more accomplished than when you started. You're drinking more alcohol than usual, your exercise routine is long forgotten, and you feel like you don't know who you are anymore

Losing Your Identity As An Individual

When your child is away at college

When raising children has been our focus for eighteen years or more, parents can feel as if we have lost our identity as individuals once the children leave the nest. In fact, we may not even know who we are anymore. Throwing all of your emotional and mental resources into being a wonderful parent to your child feels fine until the child begins the normal developmental process of beginning to individuate - separating from childhood and moving toward independent adulthood - and he or she needs you less and less. That means you have done your job well! But it can be very painful for the parent to let go. It might feel like - if my child doesn't need me the same way anymore, what is my purpose? These existential questions might seem cliché but when you're experiencing this, it can bring about a very real sense of aimlessness, hopelessness and despair. 

You don't have to feel this way. 

In part 3 of this series on Letting Go I will talk about issues from our past which can interfere with a "clean break" when our kids leave the nest. For now, know that you don't have to settle for feeling like this. Talk to a trusted friend, especially if you know someone else whose child is away at college. Talking to parents who have been through it can be helpful. If you tend to compare yourself to your friends, and they never let down the facade that everything is perfect, you might want to talk to an objective outsider. A therapist can help you process and move through these feelings.

Here's a hint. If it feels this way now, you will probably have a hard time as your child moves through each milestone of his or her adult life, and it will be easier for your child and for you - short term and long term -  if you address what you're feeling. The goal is to raise a well-adjusted adult who is able to have happy, secure relationships. If you want this for your child, it's important to let go. And if letting go is too hard, you have some feelings which deserve your attention. Attending to our own needs is easier said than done when we've spent the past 18 or more years putting our own needs last. But it's not too late to focus on what you want and need.

Working With Me 

There are several ways you can work with me if you're having trouble letting go. We can do individual psychotherapy if you can come to my office in the Baltimore area. You can attend one of my in person workshops or retreats. I can also offer coaching to help you develop a self care plan. You'll learn techniques to take care of your emotional and physical wellbeing and these coaching consultations are available either in personal or virtually. Give me a call at 443-510-1048 or send me an e-mail at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com if you'd like to discuss getting started. 

If you need psychotherapy outside of Maryland, I urge you to find someone you connect with and trust to help you with these feelings. It's better for you and for your child if you can let go and allow him or her to become an adult. You will be there if he or she needs you, but you will be allowing him or her to live and learn, just like  you did.  Your child will be okay, and you can be too.

I'm also on social media on FacebookTwitterPinterest,  and Google +You can listen to my podcast here and sign up for my e-mail newsletter here. 

Warmly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

Your Relationship Is Ending - Do You Know Your Rights?

Your Relationship Is Ending - Do You Know Your Rights?

My Interview With Evan Koslow, Esquire, Maryland Family Law Attorney

 

Earlier this year I was lucky to score an interview with my colleague, Evan Koslow of Koslow Law Firm in Annapolis, Maryland.  Evan is one of those people who is so kind and caring that he makes people feel more comfortable while they are involved in stressful life transitions, such as being involved with the courts for separation, divorce and custody.  I'm honored that he allowed me to interview him for the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast.

Our conversation was focused on the ways a family law attorney can help someone know their rights when ending a relationship, whether marriage or the end of a relationship between two people who have children together.  Evan is both an attorney and a mediator, so he is able to help people with legal representation or mediation (but not both). He explains this in more detail in the podcast interview, which you can hear by clicking on the image below.

 Click to listen to my interview with Family Law Attorney Evan Koslow on the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast!

Click to listen to my interview with Family Law Attorney Evan Koslow on the Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast!

In our interview Evan explains some considerations which are specific to same-sex relationships. Those of you who live outside of our state may not know that Maryland voters approved same-sex marriage in 2012, before the Supreme Court's decision this year which made it legal throughout the U.S.  This interview was recorded before that historic decision.

One of the things I appreciate about Evan is that he understands how painful legal action to end relationships can be for everyone involved. Children can be particularly affected. I know from my former job as a paralegal and in my experience as a psychotherapist that emotions run high when families are going through divorce or custody proceedings. Evan's perspective is that it is best for all involved to amicably resolve these cases if it is possible to do so. Of course, he will go to court and advocate for his client's rights when needed, but he knows how much more stressful that can be for all parties.

If you'd like to get in touch with Evan to talk about your Maryland family law case, his website is: www.koslowlawfirm.com. You will find all of his contact information there including his phone number, e-mail and where to find him on social media.

If you're dealing with the pain of a relationship ending, therapy can be helpful. I can help you work through your feelings in this painful time.  Feel free to contact me at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com or by phone at (443) 510-1048. I'm also on social media on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Google +. You can listen to my podcast here and sign up for my e-mail newsletter here. 

 

How The Daring Way™ Helped Me & How It Can Help You Too!

How The Daring Way™ Helped Me & How It Can Help You Too! 

Today I'm sharing my most recent episode of The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast, about how making the decision to attend The Daring Way™ training changed my life. I hope you will find it interesting!

If you haven't heard, bestselling author and thought leader Brené Brown, someone whose work I follow closely, published a new book last week. It's called Rising Strong, and I highly recommend reading it.  For more information on the book from Amazon click here (non-affiliate link). 

If you've read my blog or listened to previous episodes of my podcast, you realize that Brené Brown's books and teachings have been deeply impactful in my life and my work.  In this episode of the podcast, I talk about how I made the decision to become a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator (best decision of my professional life! - so far anyway), what it was like to learn The Daring Way™ model experientially and two specific changes in the way I handle my emotions which came about as a direct result of the experience. This work has been transformative in the way I show up in my personal life and in my work with clients.

I happened upon the training by chance as I was seeking ways to dig deeper after watching Brené Brown's TED Talks on vulnerability and shame and reading her books. I recorded this episode to let you know about how working with a Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator can take you deeper along the journey to wholehearted living. 

Certified Daring Way™ Facilitators (CDWFs) are around the U.S. and in international locations as well. You can find someone who brings a particular flavor to his/her work using this curriculum that resonates well with you. Look at the list of upcoming groups, workshops and intensive weekends by visiting The Daring Way™ website, and there is also an option to find a CDWF in your area. Here in Maryland, I have two opportunities coming up in the near future. 

I'm offering a One Day Introduction to The Daring Way™ workshop on Friday, September 18, 2015 and I have a weekend intensive retreat for a small group of up to 6 women scheduled for October 2-4, 2015Space is still available in both events and more information is available here. If you're reading this after October, 2015, you can still find information on my website about what's ahead. I'm planning some beautiful retreats in 2016 and all information will be posted on my site. I'm also super excited that the new Rising Strong™ curriculum will invite new inquiry into our stories and ways to apply Brené Brown's teaching to our lives. 

Contact me if you'd like to discuss working together. There are many ways to get in touch with me, including via e-mail at laura@laurareaganlcswc.com; by phone at (443) 510-1048; or through my website: www.laurareaganlcswc.com. You can also follow me on social media using Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and Facebook. Please listen, subscribe and post honest reviews of the podcast on iTunes! I'd love to hear from you in the comments as well. 

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast
 
 Click on the image to listen to the podcast episode! 

Click on the image to listen to the podcast episode! 

Click on the image above to listen to the podcast episode about how The Daring Way™ helped me and how it can help you!

 

Using Self Care to Nourish Your Soul & Fall In Love With Yourself

Using Self Care to Nourish Your Soul & Fall In Love With Yourself

The Baltimore Annapolis Psychotherapy Podcast Interview With Herbalist & Healer Chonteau McElvin

If you've read my blog before now you might remember my series on holistic and alternative practices that can complement traditional psychotherapy approaches. I interviewed Chonteau McElvin, a life coach, herbalist and healer who was trained as a social worker, for that series. Her interview is here.   I'm honored that Chonteau also agreed to appear on the podcast to speak more in depth about how self care can be used to nourish your soul and help you fall in love with yourself. 

In our conversation, Chonteau and I discussed how we as helpers - whether social worker, life coach, psychotherapist, counselor, pastor, body worker, physician, nurse, firefighter, physical therapist, teacher, parent, caregiver or friend - tend to place a high value on taking care of others while our own self care is neglected. This is not new information - we have all heard about the need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others.

But do you really get it on a soul level? Chonteau does. She speaks about how she uses herbal tinctures and blends, together with parts work and energy healing methods to help you fall in love with yourself so you can use self care to nourish your soul. She works with clients in person in Central Florida and online. 

You can find more information on working with Chonteau on her beautiful website which lists her offerings in detail. I hope you will enjoy listening to this fascinating conversation about self care! 

Click on the image below to listen to the episode. 

 

You can find more episodes of the Baltimore Washington Psychotherapy Podcast by clicking here to listen on iTunes. You can listen directly from your PC by clicking here.  If you like what you hear on the podcast, please consider subscribing on iTunes so you will be updated when each new episode is posted! I'd also be honored if you would take a moment to write an honest review. 

Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think of my interview with Chonteau! I'd love your feedback about the podcast and any future topics you'd like to hear discussed. I also love connecting on social media. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google +! You can sign up here to receive my occasional e-mail newsletters. I can't wait to hear from you!

Wholeheartedly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

 

How Self Care Helps Me Succeed in Business

If you have read my blog, you're probably aware that I talk about self care frequently. Click here to read my past posts on the subject of self care. Today I posted a video on Periscope, a new mobile social media platform which allows live broadcasting of videos that are posted for a limited amount of time on the site. This video, which I have posted below, was recorded live and without editing, so please be aware it's pretty raw! 

In the video I talk about how I use working and non-working retreats to grow as a person and thrive as a business owner. By working on my personal growth I am able to bring my best self to work with my clients as a psychotherapist, consultant, clinical supervisor, blogger and podcaster

(For information on my upcoming podcast visit www.laurareaganlcswc.com/podcast!) 

I am excited for you to hear one of my upcoming podcast interviews episodes in which I interviewed a psychotherapist and coach who offers international retreats to promote self care. It can be exciting and somewhat scary to consider spending money to give ourselves time and space for addressing our own needs. 

I felt intimidated about spending money and taking time away from my business in order to work on my own personal and professional growth, but I made the scary decision last September to fly to San Antonio, Texas for training in The Daring Way™. It was one of the best things I've done for myself and for my business. The experience took me way out of my comfort zone, which is a very vulnerable space, and tested my capacity to trust myself and my fellow participants as we learned this model experientially. It affected me profoundly and I continue to feel the effects of this experience almost a year later.  

Fast forward to today, where I write this post from a hotel room in Las Vegas. I'm in my last full day of a working retreat which has allowed me to focus on wrapping up the last steps needed to launch the podcast. Taking time and space away from my routine is key to unlocking my creativity. Later today I hope to hike in Red Rocks State Park, which I know will be a spiritual experience. I love my work as a psychotherapist (and all the other hats I wear in my professional life) and having experiences of taking time and space for wonder, joy and gratitude as when I am in nature makes me love my work even more. It helps me get grounded and centered.

If you're considering whether a retreat might help you get back to connection with yourself, check out my retreats page for the latest on what I'm offering. My next Daring Way™ retreat starts October 2 and I would love to talk to you about participating! 

Until next time! 

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C



Being Grounded Is A Good Thing!

How grounded are you?

Do you know what it means to be "grounded"? Not like when your parents said you weren't allowed to go outside and play with your friends. Being grounded means being present in your body. Being in the here and now. Knowing where you are and what is happening around you.

For people who have experienced trauma, sometimes being grounded and present in our bodies is not as easy as it sounds. If you have ever felt like you are floating around above your body, then you know what I mean. Or if you never feel anything in your body, it's just numb. Or if you find yourself zoning out and missing what's happening around you. If the person you are talking to says, "Hello, are you listening to me?" and you suddenly snap back to reality and think Where did I just go? 

I'm talking about dissociating, and some people do it more often than others. It's a great way of coping with negative emotions when we have no other way to escape. For that reason, many of us who were abused or neglected in childhood, or have experienced any other type of traumatic event over our lives may find this happening. Or we may not know it's happening, which can be scary. In spite of how effective dissociation can be in helping us avoid our unpleasant feelings, it can get in the way when we want to be focused at work, at home and in relationships.

Sometimes trauma survivors find unwanted thoughts or feelings coming into our heads when we don't want them to. We may even have flashbacks, in which we feel as if we are reliving the event. People often describe this as feeling as if they are watching what happened to them all over again - like a movie. However, unlike a movie that you want to see, this is one that brings up the same feelings of horror, helplessness and fear that you felt when the traumatic event occurred. It can be confusing and sometimes people have panic attacks when flashbacks come up unexpectedly.

It's important to feel grounded.

If any of these things are happening to you, I want you to know that while these are typical responses to trauma, you do not have to suffer alone. Help is available. My practice is focused on helping people who have experienced trauma to recover from the effects.  Below is an infographic I created which describes a simple, free and commonly used grounding technique. 

Grounding yourself in your body

Image copyright 2015 Laura Reagan, LCSW-C Psychotherapy Services, LLC

Feeling less than grounded? Let's talk!

I hope you find this simple grounding technique to be helpful if you, or someone you know, needs to get grounded in the body. If you need additional support, contact me by phone at (443) 510-1048, by e-mail: laurareaganlcswc@gmail.com or via my website. I would be happy to talk about how therapy can help you get more grounded and focused. 

Warmly,

Laura Reagan, LCSW-C

It's Easier Not to Care - Or Is It?

Feelings are hard.

Tomorrow is going to be hard. I'm having my dog euthanized.

I'm so sad about this but I know it's time.

I don't want to do this! As tears stream down my face I'm thinking, "I don't want to deal with this. I don't want to deal with this!" 

Why have a pet when you know they will die at some point? I mean, why did I even open up my heart to a new puppy 11 years ago, when I knew I would eventually have to say goodbye? I'm remembering when we had to put down our other dog (10 years ago). It was so sad, definitely one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. And now we are doing it again tomorrow, and this time our kids are old enough to understand. Crap. I don't want to feel these feelings!

This is part of life. Part of love. Life is not just the happy times, or even the neutral times when we are just chugging along - not really happy or sad. Life is filled with ups and downs. Overall, I've noticed it's more ups than downs. But the downs stand out more! 

Can I just not feel this?

This is hard. I wish I didn't have to feel this and that I could protect my family from having to feel this. Tomorrow is going to be SO HARD. Not having our dog anymore is going to be so sad. 

Part of me would prefer to pretend this isn't happening. Part of me would like to look online for puppies to adopt through a rescue organization and pretend my dog is already gone. You know that scene in the movie "American Beauty" when Annette Bening's character cries and screams for about 10 seconds and then fixes her makeup and acts like nothing happened? Part of me wants to do that. 

I want to numb my feelings. The problem is, as Brené Brown says, "We cannot selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light." 

Numb the Dark and You Numb the Light - Brené Brown

It's not possible to truly enjoy the companionship of your dog or cat (or your people) if you avoid opening your heart to him or her. When you do open your heart you can have countless hours of fun and mutual companionship with your pet over his or her lifespan. But the price you pay for opening your heart is that you must feel the pain of loss at some point.

Love hurts.

Isn't that true of all of our relationships? We never know when they'll be lost, but at some point they will. One of the people in the relationship will die and the other will experience loss. We never know when this will happen, but at some point it will. Wouldn't be easier just to keep our hearts closed off, protected, guarded by barbed wire, and never let anyone in? 

Well, yes, easier...if you don't mind feeling alone and lonely for your whole life. But we humans aren't made for that. We are social creatures and we need connection to survive, beginning at birth. The key to tolerating the pain of loss is the make sure to enjoy the good moments, really feel them and experience gratitude for them. And even in the neutral moments, can you find something to be grateful for? There is always something. It helps make the ups of life stand out as much as the downs.

So I will do this hard thing tomorrow. I will treasure my last hours with my dog, whom I love, and tomorrow I will take her to the vet so she will not suffer anymore. I don't want to do it and I wish I didn't have to. But I will. And I will open up my heart to another puppy (maybe two!) because it's worth it. I choose to feel because that's what life is.

"Carry on, warrior."

This morning I discovered that Glennon Doyle, Melton author of "Carry On Warrior," has a TED Talk. I have followed her blog, Momastery, but I haven't read her book yet. I watched the TED Talk today and - full disclosure - I cried through the whole thing. Maybe I'm just extra raw because I'm saying goodbye to my dog tomorrow, but I'm sharing it here because I feel pretty sure you will find it meaningful too. 

I think I need to read Glennon's book. It might take my mind off of being sad (or I will cry more - a win/win situation). I'd love to know what you think of the video and of this post in general. Please comment below!

And if you believe that risking heartbreak in the pursuit of connection is worthwhile, you'll probably want to read more of my posts. If you want support in opening your heart, get in touch with me by phone (443-510-1048), e-mail (laurareaganlcswc@gmail.com); or click "Work With Me" on my website to discover what I offer that can be of help to you.