Mid-week Motivation

“The mind is everything.  What you think, you become.” – Buddha

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© Vanessa Lemminger, M.A. Marriage and Family Therapist 53937, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vanessa Lemminger, Marriage and Family Therapist 53937 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Dealing with Divorce as an Adult

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The Way They Were: Dealing with Divorce After a Lifetime of Marriage by Brooke Lea Foster

Brooke Foster’s book, The Way They Were: Dealing with Divorce After a Lifetime of Marraige is an essential read for adult children experiencing the pain of parental divorce.  In fact, Foster’s book may be* one of the only books on the experience of adult children of divorce.

Foster’s book explores the loss one experiences in adulthood when they are thrust into the often messy and painful experience of watching their parent’s relationship dissolve, and the expectation of how adult children are supposed to respond.

Foster’s book hits home for many adult children of divorce as she speaks of the “insignificance” many adult children feel.  She calls the book, “a guide to rebuilding relationships and forging ahead.  A place to feel reassured that your pain is real, that you’re allowed to hurt.”

The Way They Were: Dealing with Divorce After a Lifetime of Marriage is a compilation of stories, interviews, and experiences from several individuals who have experienced the pain, anger, and sadness of parental divorce in adulthood, with points to remember at the end of each chapter to summarize the important pieces to take home.

Foster’s book is a great read for those looking for reassurance that the pain they are experiencing is justified.  Her book provides connection and reassurance in the similarities of others experience, without watering down the pain each individual reader is experiencing.  Foster’s book is both therapeutic and educational, while also providing helpful strategies for navigating through the messy emotional process of separation.

The Way They Were: Dealing with Divorce After a Lifetime of Marriage can be found on Amazon.com in the paperback or Kindle version here!

   

   VaneVanessa (16)ssa Lemminger M.A., LMFT
Marital and Family Therapist

  

    


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© Vanessa Lemminger, M.A. Marriage and Family Therapist 53937, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vanessa Lemminger, Marriage and Family Therapist 53937 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Breaking the Chains of Control

Breaking the Chains of Control

Control. 

Merriam Webster defines it as, “to exercise restraining or directing influence over; to have power over; or to reduce the incidence or severity of especially to innocuous levels”.

Control is found in almost everything we do.  We control our appearance with control tops, supplements, and diets.  We control our pets and children with leashes and boundaries in hopes to reduce harm.  We control our finances with savings accounts, retirement funds, and investments.  We attempt to control our health with vitamins, preventative medicine, and doctor visits.  We control the events in our lives with schedules, planners, and lists.  Sometimes we even control our lists with more lists.  An even greater example of this desire for control can be found in the field of genetic engineering, where we have created near perfect produce, plants, and cloned animals.  Depending on how much money one is willing to spend, there is also the opportunity to choose which favorable traits one want to pass on to their unborn, yet to be conceived, child. Humans are creatures of habit and pattern, which are reinforced by the ability to control various elements from our environment to fit into those habits and patterns.  Control also creates a sense of safety through predictability.  When we can alter or restrain our surroundings, we can create an ideal environment where we are better able to predict what the outcome of each situation will be.  We feel safe when we know what to expect.

Life. 

Merriam Webster provides one definition of life as “the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual”.

Here is where I would need to correct or adjust Merriam Webster’s definition to include descriptions such as: chaotic, spontaneous, adventurous, and full of surprises.  Life should really be an antonym for control.  No matter how much we attempt to control the events of our life, there will always be something that is beyond our reach.  Let’s be honest, trying to control and predict how life will unfold is similar to herding a pack of stray cats in a dark room.   I wish you the best of luck, and urge you to bring some band-aids.

Despite knowing how chaotic life is, we still try to control as much of it as we can.  It almost seems as if the more chaotic life gets, the more control we try to gain.  We end up either completely exhausted after multiple, failed attempts to control the uncontrollable, or our attempts to control morph into a maladaptive habit that consumes the large majority of our lives.   Each extreme leaves one feeling completely enslaved by the idea of control.  The key to gaining back our freedom is to forget that the chains even exist.  We should focus our energy on battling the need to feel in control because, as we know, most things in life do not work this way.  We need to learn how to let go of what is uncertain in life and trust in our ability to navigate successfully on our own.

Freeing the chains of control that hold us down is not always an easy task.  There may even be a time when we don’t even recognize the ties that pin us down.  Start by breaking the situation down into more simple pieces.  Find the situation that gives you the most stress.  Why does it cause you stress? What do you do when the anxiety starts to set in? Then ask yourself the important question of, “What does this behavior serve? What do you gain from it?” Instead of spending an immense amount of time on attempting to predict and control results, we need to learn to feel comfortable saying, “I don’t know exactly how things are going to work out”, and learn to feel more confident that we have the strength to move forward, even in the hardest moments.  Focusing less on outcomes will allow us to spend more time enjoying the process of living.

Vanessa Lemminger, M.A., LMFT 53937
Marriage and Family Therapist

Check out my article on R.A.R.E. Project blog as well!

© Vanessa Lemminger, M.A. Marriage and Family Therapist 53937, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vanessa Lemminger, Marriage and Family Therapist 53937 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Resurrecting Technology

Whether you are into rap music or not, the name Tupac Shakur probably rings a bell.  If you have never heard of Coachella before, after this year’s back-from-the-dead performance, I can guarantee you will know about the event now.

This year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, an annual three-day festival held in Indio, California, featured a performance like no other.  The performance was ground-breaking, and sent chills throughout the audience as they watched the famous rapper, Tupac Shakur give a live, original performance right in front of their eyes, despite being dead for 16 years.

The performance was truly astonishing.  Video of the performance shows Tupac’s image on stage, with clarity that allows viewers to count the ribs along his side and the ruffles in his jeans.  As he performs, his chain necklace bounces rapidly back and forth to match the flow and rhythm of his unique mannerisms.  The performance, which also includes a cameo performance from Snoop Dogg (another famous rapper), is an original performance created specifically for Coachella, and not a previously recorded performance.

Now, regardless of if you enjoy rap music or not – or even any music at all – I wanted to write about this to get some feedback from others.  As I sat watching the video of Tupac’s performance (which you can find here ) [WARNING: Content contains offensive and derogatory language and gestures], several things ran through my mind.  First, I thought of the artist performing with this digital image.  Snoop Dogg and Tupac had a history together, collaborated on many projects together, and were close friends.  The image of Tupac on the stage looked frighteningly real, and I immediately scanned Snoop’s face for some sort of emotional reaction to what he was seeing in front of him.  I thought, ‘What must it be like to perform next to a strikingly real image of your dead best-friend?’ I thought of all the memories that probably rushed through his mind before, during, and after that performance.  Was this something he was excited about doing, or did he regret it later when he got off stage? The second thought I had was about Tupac’s family, and specifically his mother.  During the wake of Tupac’s death, his mother Afeni Shakur, along with another deceased (rival) rapper’s mother, made several public appearances expressing their distress and contempt for the violence that occurs between rival rappers, that ultimately lead to the death of both their sons.  I thought of Afeni Shakur, and how this experience affected her.  According to CBS news reporter Camille Mann, Afeni did in fact approve of the performance before it was even created.  But I still wondered, what it was like for her to watch her son perform on stage, after not being able to see his image for 16 years?

I also thought of my own experience with death.  After three short years of losing someone close to me, I can barely remember what their voice sounded like, the unique curve of their smile, or their posture as they would walk.  Loosing these memories has actually been a very difficult part of loss for myself, and sometimes the experience leaves me feeling as if my memories are seeping out of my skull like evaporating water.  There are many days where I wish I could just remember that person without the aid of a picture.  What if I were in Afeni’s position – would I want to have that resurrecting experience? If this technology was affordable for the average person, would it be something I would want as a keepsake for loved ones that have passed away?

I don’t have answers to these questions, but am presenting them for the purpose of discussion.  I am curious as to what others think about this experience, and what they would do if they were Afeni or Snoop.  After watching the performance, I am left impressed by technology, and amazed by the stoic stance of Snoop, but yet still left with chills at the thought of seeing someone I lost, live in front of my eyes.

I want to hear your feedback! What would be your reaction if you had the opportunity to resurrect a deceased loved one via the same technology used at Coachella?

Vanessa Lemminger, M.A., LMFT 53937
Marriage and Family Therapy Registered Intern

 

What Is Loss?

What is Loss?

Death.  It’s one of the most taboo subjects.  If you ever want to end a conversation, start talking about death.  Death and the sadness that occurs afterward, are often met by friends and loved ones with attempts to return to happiness as fast as possible, instead of attempting to understand how to cope with the experience.  Avoidance is even found in graduate-level counseling programs, where grief/loss is completely removed from the required coursework.  Despite all of our avoiding, death and loss surround us and occur more often than we realize.

Loss can be camouflaged, but it lies in almost everything we experience.  Loss of identity is a common hidden loss.  This can occur for many reasons.  For example, after a divorce, many people experience a loss of identity as they transition from a married couple to a single individual.  It grows increasingly difficult the longer a marriage lasts, since the longer someone has held an identity, the harder it becomes to transition to a new identity.  Loss of identity can also be seen in children during divorces.  For some children, the change that occurs may mean taking a new role in the family, transitioning from son to “man of the household.”  This switch can cause stress, conflict, and confusion for the family member who is forced to take on a role they are not normally accustomed to.  Losing a job can also cause identity loss, particularly with men.  Society has labeled men with the social role of “provider.”  Working and providing for a family is an identity for many men, and when that is taken away via job loss, men sometimes have a difficult time adjusting to a new role as dependent.

Another common but hidden loss is the relocation of a home.  This loss is probably more common today as many families are forced to move because of the inability to afford their current bills, job relocation, or foreclosure due to a poor economy.  For many families, the home symbolizes much more than just a roof and four walls; it can hold history, memories, and an ongoing restructuring project and result of hard work.  Losing a home or being forced to move can be devastating and leave one with feelings of intense loss.   Our homes are also our place of comfort.  Do you remember your first move? How long did it take you to make your new place feel like “home”? This feeling of comfort is often grieved as well when losing a home.

Loss of ability is another example that can occur for people with chronic or terminal medical conditions.  For instance, some diseases like Multiple Sclerosis (MS), which results in loss of muscle control, slowly strips away many abilities that a person once had.  Just one month after diagnosis, an individual may lose their ability to sleep comfortably.  Months later, they may lose their ability to walk without assistance.  Next goes the ability to walk at all, being bound to a wheel chair.  Loss of vision, the ability to control bowel movements, and the strength to feed oneself can also occur.  Each of these different stages in the disease results in a loss, and those individuals experience grief during each individual stage.  [I would like to note that this is a generalized example based on a severe course of MS.  Not all individuals with MS will experience these symptoms, and not all courses of MS follow the same path.]  Sudden loss due to either disease or tragic event is also a loss that requires grieving.

As one can see, there are many types of losses that are not the actual loss of a human life.  People experience these losses many times over, but often confuse the experience with other emotions.  Are we really mad that the staircase in the new house is placed in such an awkward place, or are we just grieving the loss of what was once our place of comfort and security? Are you really upset that your partner took on more hours at work, leaving no time to help you around the house? Or are you having a hard time transitioning out of the role in the family as “provider”?

One may answer, “What does it matter? Regardless of how I got there, I’m left feeling mad!” One cannot begin grieving something they have not yet acknowledged has been lost.  Appropriately defining these moments as a loss ― whether it be a divorce, losing a job or a house, gaining a new identity as a single, taking on a new role in the family, or declining physical abilities due to a chronic medical condition ― will help one gain a clearer understanding of what they are experiencing, and help one to better cope with the feelings they are having.

It is also important to recognize the actual loss to allow for the time and space to grieve.  Although it may not be seen by others as an “actual” loss, what was experienced is, in fact, a loss and can leave one with the exact same feelings.  Taking care of oneself during this difficult time is not only important, but essential.

Vanessa Lemminger M.A., LMFT 53937
Marriage and Family Therapist

Check out my blog post featured on the R.A.R.E. Project site!

http://rareproject.org/2012/04/16/what-is-loss/

© Vanessa Lemminger, M.A. Marriage and Family Therapist 53937, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vanessa Lemminger, Marriage and Family Therapist 53937 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Coping when Tragedy Strikes

In a world of “How To, For Dummies”, Web MD, and the ease of Google search,  we are accustomed to finding fast solutions to problems we encounter.  With a quick search on You Tube, one can find tutorials on everything from “how to create perfect curls” to “how to pick a lock”.  There are books that range from “How to Run a Successful Business” to “How to Find Inner Peace”.  Information, guidance, and insight are at the tip of our fingers in our fast paced, highly connected society.  When tragedy strikes, we often have the same urge to find a solution, some guidance, or at least some insight into what steps we should take next.  Working in the field of therapy, this is something I see often.  “What should I do?” “How long will this feeling last?” “How long does it take to recover?” “Will things ever feel normal?” “What do other parents do?” “Am I taking the right steps?”

My answer is never a simple one, and never a popular one.  In fact, that actual thought of one person having an “answer” to such problems, is ridiculous.  My reaction, instead, is this: If there was a “How To” book on what to do and how to cope when tragedy strikes, everyone would read it front to back, ten times over.  The book would be an instant best seller, but unfortunately, such a book does not exist.

There is no easy way to cope when tragedy strikes, and there is no easy answer on how to react.  What I can suggest, however, is helpful hints on how to make coping easier, and how to find solace in your own way.

Don’t panic:

Whether you have just been given a life-altering diagnosis, or experiencing another relapse through the course of a current condition, it is important not to panic.  It is easy to let our thoughts run wild, and sometimes when we are delivered what seems like unimaginable, out-of-this world news, our thoughts tend to drift into the unimaginable as well.  It is easy to instantly think of the worst that can happen, and get lost in a tumbling avalanche of fear and panic.

Although it is important not to panic, this does not mean you shouldn’t be experiencing feelings of sadness, shock, and fear.  All those reactions and emotions are normal to experience.

Give yourself time to cope:

This is a continuation of what I said above under “don’t panic”.  Disbelief, depression, anger, fear, and even euphoria are all emotions that can occur when tragedy arrives.  The different emotional states can occur in any order, and occur many times, or some not at all.   No matter what card you just been dealt, life continues to move at its normal lightening-fast speed.  It’s important to put take some time to yourself.   Put the breaks on when needed, and make sure to give yourself plenty of time during the day to just, simply, breathe.  Once you allow yourself to experience these emotions, you can start to reflect on the deeper meaning behind what is going on.

Educate yourself:

Don’t let shock and disbelief leave you helpless.  Educate yourself the best you can on what you are dealing with.  Information can help empower, thus leaving us to make better decisions that will lead us to more positive outcomes for ourselves.  Our bodies and our lives are as intricate as the ecosystem.  Making small, minor adjustments can create surprisingly large changes in how we feel.

Education can help us better understand the course of a disease, what the future may look like, common symptoms, and helpful ways to lessen or deal with side effects.  Education can tell us about what treatment is available, what treatment is not available, and what others in our position have encountered.

Education is similar to solving a Sudoku puzzle.  The more numbers that are available, the easier the puzzle is to solve.  Granted, this is a very simple metaphor, and “solve” is a very concrete and loaded word when dealing with tragedy, the point is to emphasize the importance of knowledge.  The more you know, the more control you can gain on the situation.

Now, here is the catch: it is also important not to obsess over information.  Moderation is key here.  Have you ever made a list for a list? (Guilty here.) Make sure that this stays helpful, and doesn’t lead to more stress.  Determine what would be helpful to know, and what you are content about leaving alone.

Self-reflection: What does this mean for you?

Find some time for self-reflection, grab a soothing cup of tea (or any thing that helps you relax), grab a notebook, and find a comfortable spot in your favorite room.

Take some time to think about these questions, how you would answer them, and actually jot them down in a notebook.  Physically writing down your answers will help give these answers weight.

1. How is this event going to change my life?

2.  How have these changes altered my identify?

3. How did I define myself prior to this event, and how do I define myself now?

4. What does this situation mean to me?

Whether you are experiencing an actual loss, or experiencing the loss of ability or lifestyle, these losses can be disorienting and alter our sense of identity.  Finding meaning in who we are and understanding how the changes in our life will redefine us will aid in the coping process.  It may take a while to feel content about our answers.  It is the process that is important.

Vanessa Lemminger, M.A., LMFT 53937

Marriage and Family Therapist

This article can also be found on the R.A.R.E. Project’s blog! Check out link and learn more about the R.A.R.E. project!

http://rareproject.org/2012/04/03/coping-when-tragedy-strikes/

© Vanessa Lemminger, M.A. Marriage and Family Therapist 53937, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vanessa Lemminger, Marriage and Family Therapist 53937 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Let’s just call today ‘Feel-Good Friday’ …

Another great read I would love to pass on.

This article is titled, “Beautiful Minds: Musing on the Many Paths to Greatness’ by Scott Barry Kaufman.

This is great read for all, as it is applicable to everyone in a learning position – not just those with a learning disability.  If we could all change our expectations of others to a more positive stance, what would our world look like?

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/beautiful-minds/201201/the-need-believe-in-the-ability-disability

Vanessa Lemminger, M.A., LMFT 53937
Marriage and Family Therapist