The Intentional Yes – A Way to Simplify Your Holiday

While most of us can boast of very busy schedules year round, the holiday season is even worse.  There are pressures coming from all sides, end of the year deadlines at work, holiday parties, the pressure to find the perfect gift for everyone in your life, family obligations, traffic…the list could go on and on.

Rather than putting our heads down this holiday season and plowing through it let’s try something different.  Let’s slow it down, let’s take some time to enjoy it, revel in it and actually be merry!

How do we do this? Continue reading

Kill Switches of Happiness – Adjusting Expectations

Are your expectations hitting the kill switch to your happiness?

Throughout the years of working with couples and individuals struggling with interpersonal relationships, addictions, anxiety, depression, or simply adjusting to their ever changing lives I have witnessed the turmoil caused by unmet expectations placed upon themselves and others.  People tend to be strongly connected to their expectations, regardless if the expectation is positive or negative. In addition, many individuals will often times gravitate more consistently towards negative or positive expectations.

What is a negative expectation? Expecting the worst or expecting too little from an individual or situation.    The development of this thought process is often times constructed as a protective shield. For example some protective negative expectations are:

  • They will probably leave mepessimist.optimist.realist
  • This diet won’t work for me
  • I bet the cancer has gotten worse
  • My child will never be able to excel

These thoughts are often times justified with, “if I expect the worst I will be prepared and if the worst doesn’t happen I will be pleasantly surprised.” On the surface this appears to be a solid plan of attack. However, while expecting the worst to happen in the future we live in present despair of what may or may not happen, which may cause:

  1. Isolation and limited support – this negative outlook can often times push people away (aka Debbie Downer).
  2. Chronic irritability – moodiness is a natural emotional response of constant negative thinking.
  3. Limits potential and possibilities – people may not try or give up hope if they continually assume they cannot achieve or overcome an obstacle.

What is a positive expectation? Expecting perfection or too much from an individual or situation. This thought process is also often times developed as a measure of protection. Unfortunately behind this protective shield is a mountain of significant avoidance. For example some protective positive expectations are:

  • I have the perfect child that could never disappoint me
  • You are going to be great, with so many treatment options cancer is not a big deal these days.
  • Because my spouse truly loves me, they will understand and meet my needs (i.e. child rearing, frequency of intimacy, household chores, gifts, etc.)
  • Since I’m making such a big financial investment in this weight loss program I won’t cheat or struggle with staying on track.

In comparison to negative expectations, positive expectations also limit our ability to accurately experience the present moment. Expecting too much or perfection can lead us to avoid, or be ill-equipped to manage problems that may arise. While positive expectations are generally meant to be encouraging and supportive, they frequently cause the following reactions:

  1. Immense pressure on ourselves and others – The amount of pressure people can experience in response to positive expectations can be so intense that they are unable to enjoy their accomplishments due to residual amounts of pressure.
  2. Dismiss or overlook the realities in life, avoiding problems – Stunting healthy personal and interpersonal development that may come from addressing the realities of life.
  3. Frustration and unhappiness – Exaggerated expectations will eventually lead to disappointment, simply because not everything in life is going to be perfect or go as planned.

What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” Abraham Maslow

The next time your happiness has been killed, or you just notice you are in a constant rut, stop and ask yourself, “What expectation in this moment is causing this tension?” Fight to not immediately defend or judge your expectation. Once you are aware of your identified expectation put it up against the following test:

  1. Is the expectation true?
  2. Is the expectation helpful?
  3. Is the expectation realistic?

What are the positive and negative expectations that are killing your happiness in the moment? If you or someone you know needs help filtering through personal or relational expectations contact me at Michael@ashenfeltercounseling.com. Stay tuned for 4 Expectations that are Ruining My Marriage and Career Success & Marriage Failure.

Inner Peace: A Natural Face Lift

“Soften your eyes. Relax your face,” I instruct my clients when we are working on deep relaxation in session. And the change is immediate and visible as the lines of tension fall away and a peaceful expression steals over them. When conducting this exercise with a roomful of people, the whole mood of the group changes. You can almost see everyone’s blood pressure go down! For you see, no matter how skillful the face lift, how costly the wrinkle cream, nothing can erase the look of stress, anger, sadness or chronic anxiety from a face when the soul inside is tense and troubled.  Inner peace is like a natural face lift. Continue reading

Boundaries for Leaders

Check out our recent guest post for Empowered by Pierce.

Boundaries

Boundaries create sense of self and safety

We live in a world full of boundaries: like fences, the lines in a parking lot, our office space etc…But what does it look like personally and professionally?

To put it as simply as possible, boundaries are a dividing line between what is you and what is someone else. 

There are 4 main areas in which we create boundaries for ourselves:

  1. Physical – think personal space
  2. Emotional – managing your emotions and how you respond to the emotions of others
  3. Mental – having the freedom to manage your own thoughts and opinions
  4. Spiritual – how you manage and maintain your spiritual life

While often times we think that boundaries keep people out, or are selfish, the reverse is actually true. When we have established healthy boundaries with those in our life we actually gain a greater sense of safety and freedom. Without them, anger and resentment build up and actually hurt our relationships.

So how do we set boundaries? Read more…

 

 

 

Great Expectations!

Check out our latest guest blog, Great Expectations, for Innovation 360, a counseling center helping people recover from addiction through an innovative combination of therapy and life development activities.

Overcoming the Bully

As a kid, I was the “fat kid” who was teased quite a bit about her weight.  When people think about bullying, this is the type of thing that they often think of. However, bullying is an issue that is rampant across our society, and it is not always as clear-cut as the name calling that I experienced. Unfortunately, bullying is an issue that most of us have to deal with in some capacity, at some point in our lives.  Whether it is a bully on the playground, in the workplace, or corporate bullies such as the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch who recently stated that he only wanted “popular” and “pretty” people wearing his clothes, being insulted or belittled is hurtful, and if not addressed, can be deeply harmful.

Continue reading