Validation is Good for Your Health

Why Validate?

Everybody craves validation. Even babies need to be responded to as though their experiences are valid and have their needs met. To be told that you matter, and your experiences make sense is a deeply regulating and nourishing experience.

What is Validation?

When you validate, you are NOT saying you agree, approve or condone. In fact, you can validate someone you completely disagree with (more on this later). You can also learn to validate your own experience even when you have self-judgments, such as thinking you “should feel differently.”

Validation is not a compliment or an insult. Validation means expressing that the person you are validating (yourself or someone else) has an experience that makes sense. Science tells us there is a cause-and-effect process to your emotions and behaviors, meaning that if you feel or act a certain way, there is a reason. In other words, your emotions and actions make sense. They come from somewhere.

To complicate things a bit, everyone does not feel validated by the same words and actions. Different people and situations require diverse ways of validating. Sometimes, simply saying, “How you feel makes sense,” can be enough. There are also situations that require spending some time listening and asking questions before the other person feels they have been heard.

Read on for tips on how to validate and understand the benefits to your health.

How to Validate

Give verbal responses to show you are engaged and listening.

This can be “um-hum” or “ah” or “I see” or “keep talking” or “I’m interested in what you are saying” or “tell me more.” You can also ask follow-up questions, “Then what happened?” or “How did you feel about him saying that to you?” Respond with whatever feels natural to illustrate that you are following along and giving attention to what the other person is saying. The key here is to be genuine. If you are rolling your eyes or sighing with boredom while at the same time verbally expressing your interest, this can be experienced as confusing or invalidating.

Express that you are listening with body language.

Instead of slouching back in your chair, looking at the wall, or fidgeting with a pen, look at the person speaking. Watch their expressions and listen as though you are interested. This is a time to practice putting down your electronic devices and silencing them. You can lean your body slightly forward or sit forward in your chair toward the person speaking. This indicates interest and can be reinforcing for many.

validation is good for you

Verbalize you are listening by saying it.

Validation is about recognizing and expressing that what a person is experiencing matters and is real. You can show this by simply saying it. Phrases such as, “I can understand why you feel this way,” or, “It makes sense you would be frustrated,” or, “I think anyone in your shoes would feel this way,” can communicate validation.

Search for the kernel of truth.

If you are trying to validate but disagree and so do not know how to validate the person, the remedy is to get curious. You must take a stance that even if you cannot see it, this person’s experience makes sense and then throw yourself into discovering “the kernel of truth.” In other words, you do not have to agree to validate. You can even disapprove of another’s point of view and still validate. A common type of conversation for this difficulty to arise is in political conversations when you have one point of view and the other person has an opposing view. Or, perhaps your friend tells you about an argument and you agree with the others person’s stance and disagree with your friend. The thing to do here is let go of the content (specifics of the conversation) for a moment and try to identify and make sense of the other’s emotion. While you may disagree with your friend’s political stance, you can still validate that he feels passionate about it or frustrated or whatever the emotion is at that moment. Here, you are communicating, “I may not agree with you, but I still think you make sense and that your experiences are valid and worthwhile, even if we never see eye-to-eye on this.” Through this validating stance, you are accepting how a person feels or perceives a situation. That’s it. You are not approving or condoning; you are simply accepting their experience for what it is.

Validating those you disagree with is an advanced practice. It requires that you let go of framing it in your mind as wrong, illogical, insane, or any other judgments. This exercise further requires you accept that somehow this person makes sense, even if you cannot understand why in this moment. Practice this in less intense situations first until you get the hang of it, then apply it to more emotionally tricky situations. Experiment with validation and investigate the effects it has on your relationships. (Warning: You may experience less conflict and even get your own needs met more frequently.)

Validation is Good for Your Health

If you only learned one skill to improve your relationships, I would cheerlead for that to be validation. Validation is extremely effective in reducing conflict and increasing the bonds between people (this means increased endorphins and all the pleasant-feels and chemicals in the brain and body). Validating others also releases you from the trap of thinking you must tell them what to do, how to feel, what you would have done or otherwise, how to problem-solve their situation. Letting go of the desire to guide or critique others who are perfectly capable of doing that for themselves is a release of perceived responsibility for you, which can be an immense stress reliever. Less stress means lower cortisol levels (regulates your ability to relax and sleep) and often, regulated serotonin (mood regulator).

So far, you have read about validating others. Validating yourself is just as crucial to your health and well-being. People who have a history of chronic invalidation and learn invalidating self-talk suffer profoundly. Chronic invalidation, including self-hating thinking, can lead to depression and symptoms such as binge eating and other behaviors destructive to your health. Your ability to validate yourself is a major strength and allows you to trust your own decisions and wisdom. Building confidence in what you believe, feel and think brings a sense of calm and centeredness that is impossible to attain when you do not trust yourself. Self-validation can promote your general well-being as well as harmonious relationships. Use this short Self-validation Handout/Worksheet to help you practice.

For help validating yourself or others, or learning more techniques and strategies that can enrich your life, contact Dr. Bando today and shift from surviving to thriving!


Feeling Over-“stuffed”: 2 of 4

How to Focus on What Matters During the Holidays (and Keep Yourself Feeling Merry).

Part 2 of 4 of the Holiday Stress Survival Guide

 

The holiday season is here, and along with this time of year comes a lot of “stuff”! Yes, “stuff” can come in the form of things, objects, presents, toys, etc., but there is also a lot of emotional “stuff” that gets stirred up this time of year. If you are feeling over-“stuffed” and want to loosen the button on your emotional pants, read on for ways to cope. Part 2 of this four-part Holiday Stress Survival Guide focuses on relationships.

 

RELATIONSHIPS DURING THE HOLIDAYS

The holidays are a time when relationships come front and center. We often spend more time than usual with family members or those who are like family. We can find ourselves in a cocktail of a lot of face-time with people with whom we have a lot of history, and high stress, all while feeling rundown during these cold months and at the height of cold-and-flu season. Maybe not a mixture we would like to order often, but during the holidays, this is what we have on our plate.

California Online Therapist, holiday stress, relationships

 

SKILLS FOR INTERPERSONAL CONFLICTS

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a well-researched therapy offering lots of skills that you can put into practice in real-time to get true results. There is a whole module in DBT focusing on Interpersonal Effectiveness. Here are some quick tips for applying some of my favorite Interpersonal DBT Skills to ward off (or decrease the likelihood of) interpersonal conflicts during the holiday season.

 

Be skillful, and ask for what you want, DEAR. DEAR is an acronym used in DBT that gives us a template for what to say when we would like to ask for something we want. It goes like this:

 

D – Describe just the facts, without judgment. This orients the person to what you would like to discuss.

Example: I’d like to talk about who is making each dish for Christmas dinner this year.

E – Express how you feel about the situation. Explicitly tell the other person how you feel. They may not know if you don’t say the words!

Example: Nobody has committed to bringing a dish yet, and since I am hosting, I’m feeling overwhelmed.

A – Assert what you want. Say precisely what you are asking. Don’t leave it up to guesswork. Be specific, direct and clear.

Example: I would love if you could tell me two dishes you will bring and let me know by this Friday.

R – Reinforce the person in advance for giving you what you want. Here, you are answering the question, “What do they get out of giving me what I am asking for?”

Example: If you tell me by Friday, you can choose whatever is your favorite to bring, and I will be much less stressed the next time we talk! (Don’t be afraid to use a little humor and an easy manner to loosen up the conversation.)

Practice writing out your DEAR ahead of time and then rehearse a few times before you deliver it. The beauty of this skill is that only four little sentences are needed to ask for what you want in a direct and assertive way. You can also use this skill to refuse a request, like a dinner invitation. Use the same steps but instead of “Asserting” a question, say “no” to the request. Try it!

 

VALIDATE (yourself and others)

Validation may be the most powerful interpersonal skill. Use it wisely! When used effectively, validation opens the doors of communication and closeness. Make sure that is what you want and you’re ready. I have seen validation break down walls that have taken years to build. It may be the most potent tool to affect change.

 

People often misinterpret what “validation” means. Validation is not a compliment, agreement, or approval. Telling someone you like something about them or think they are “right” is not validation. Validation is exhibiting that the other person (or yourself) makes sense. We display validation in many ways: paying attention, nodding, asking questions to clarify, making statements such as, “I understand why you feel that way,” or, “That makes sense.” In other words, validation is treating someone as though they make sense whether or not you agree with them or like what they are saying.

 

Validation of either ourselves or others is a mighty technique in diffusing conflicts. Once any of us feel understood and like we matter, we calm down and are less defensive. If you’re interested, check out my quick steps and worksheet for practicing self-validation. You can use the same steps on someone else.

 

Happy Holidays! Please remember, life is too short just to survive. Use these practices to help you THRIVE!

Read the whole series

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 1: Holiday Stress

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 2: Navigating Relationships

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 3: Loneliness

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 4: Overeating

 

If you use any of the practices suggested, please feel free to share your experiences and send your comments to contact@drbando.com. While Dr. Bando will not answer personally, your comments and feedback help inform future posts.


Feeling Over-“stuffed”: 1 of 4

How to Focus on What Matters During the Holidays (and Keep Yourself Feeling Merry).

 

The holiday season is marketed as being the “most wonderful time” of the year. For many of us, this is not always the case. Our to-do lists get longer: we have gifts to buy, trips to book, decorations to hang, cards to send, and on it goes. Many of us deal with stressful family dynamics that also like to come along for the sleigh ride.

 

All this busy-ness during the holidays can divert us from getting to the heart of what really matters. Everyone may have a slightly different idea about what they value most, but all of us typically want some sense of inner peace, satisfaction, happiness, and connection with those we love. Read on for Part 1 of my four-part Holiday Stress Survival Guide; it contains helpful tips to stop “stuff”ing yourself with all the things the holidays bring – gifts, lists, endless tasks, and yes, food – and ease through the season with a strong connection to whatever is deeply important to you.

 

Peaceful, grounded holiday season, online therapy, counseling

UNREALISTIC HOLIDAY EXPECTATIONS

Holiday movies often set the stage for unrealistic standards. With a funny or heartwarming story centered around family, they sell us the message of a season with fantastic holiday décor, impeccably wrapped gifts, chef-quality meals that magically appear, and relationship snafus ending in a hearty laugh and a hug. This all happens with full hair and makeup, flawlessly styled outfits, and no lint or wrinkles in sight. The media (and retail shops) create pressure to make the holidays shine with the perfect gifts.

 

Social media can also create pressure. Have you ever been at an event that was chaotic and not-so-fun, only to discover a friend post a picture of that same event looking charming and lovely? You wonder what happened to the screaming, running children, dog pee in the middle of the room, turkey that fell on the floor and all the grumbling guests.

 

The point here is that pictures and videos, whether they are professionally laid out ads who employ a full-time staff to capture one perfect-looking moment or a friend’s Facebook post, are typically not representative of how the in-person moment honestly feels. People are putting their best foot forward, and we don’t see the behind-the-scenes struggles. Have you heard that old saying, “Don’t compare your insides to others’ outsides?” You will almost always come up short.

So, what do we do?

Take control and set your own expectations!

 

STEP 1: DEFINE YOUR OWN VALUES

As always, take a deep breath (or three), and center yourself. Acknowledge that you have access to your wisdom and call on it to come forth and take over for a moment. Now, define a couple of values that you would like to take through the holiday season and jot them down or save them somewhere. Some ideas are below. Pick a few or come up with your own. Make sure to select value-words that resonate with you right now. Do not choose any words that come with the idea that you “should” value them. Only pick the values that sing to you in this moment.

 

ACCEPTANCE — ADVENTURE — BEAUTY — CARING — COMFORT — COMPASSION — CONTRIBUTION — COOPERATION — CREATIVITY — ECOLOGY — FAITHFULNESS — FLEXIBILITY — FORGIVENESS — FUN — GENEROSITY — GENUINENESS — GROWTH — HEALTH — HUMOR — INTIMACY — LOVING — MINDFULNESS — MODERATION — OPENNESS — PASSION — PLEASURE — PURPOSE — ROMANCE — SELF-ACCEPTANCE — SELF-COMPASSION — SIMPLICITY — SPIRITUALITY — TOLERANCE — TRADITION

 

STEP 2: PRIORITIZE

If you chose a bunch of values, take a moment to pick just one or two that stand out most to you. Check in with yourself and make sure it feels right – that if this value carries you through the holiday season, you will feel pride in your actions and as though you are living in your integrity.

Make the holidays easy, telehealth online therapy California

STEP 3: MAKE IT EASY

Nobody needs extra work during the busy holiday stress season. Instead of setting hard-to-reach goals about behaving in particular ways according to your values, let up a bit and create something gentler that will permeate and be effective.

 

I suggest putting the couple words you chose in the places that you will see them often. Some ideas: post-its on your computer screen, your bathroom mirror, in the car; notes with reminder bells on your calendar; a love note to yourself with these words placed in your packed lunch or on your nightstand to read just before bed and upon waking. You get the idea – put these meaningful values places that you will see them often. When you see them, you can just walk on by, and let them sneak in through your periphery. Sometimes, when you have the minute to spare, you can use the words as a reminder to take a breath (or three) and focus on your desire to bring these qualities into your life.

 

STEP 4: DON’T FORGET SELF-COMPASSION!

Want to turn it up a notch and ensure these values powerfully appear in your life? Offer them to yourself! Try a short, little practice daily, and you may be amazed at what starts to happen. Find a ritual that you engage in every day: brushing your teeth, making coffee or tea, putting on your shoes. Tie this ritual to the value-words you have chosen and offer these values to yourself. For example, if you selected the values of “comfort” and “health,” while brushing your teeth (or whatever activity you choose) say to yourself, “May I receive comfort. May I receive health.” Repeat the statements over and over again. Do it again the next day and the next. It does not matter whether you feel their impact or reject them totally. Keep saying the statements over and over. Let the statements do the work and seep in on their own time.

 

Happy Holidays! Please remember, life is too short just to survive. Use these practices to help you THRIVE!

 

Read the whole series

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 1: Holiday Stress

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 2: Navigating Relationships

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 3: Loneliness

Feeling Over-”stuffed” Part 4: Overeating

 

If you do partake in any of the holiday stress relieving practices suggested, please feel free to share your experiences and send your comments to contact@drbando.com. While Dr. Bando will not answer personally, your comments and feedback help inform future posts.

 

 


Telehealth vs. In Person Therapy: Which is Better?

You may be familiar with the image of counseling taking place in a psychologist’s office, client and therapist sitting opposite each other, or perhaps the client lying down on a couch. While this model is well known, our current-day communication technology makes it possible to access psychological services in the comfort of your own space.

Therapy has changed over the years, as has the consumer. As more information about psychological health has become readily available, those seeking treatment have become savvy customers. You value your time, money and energy and want gold-standard care. In therapy, this translates to more people looking for skills-based treatment delivered efficiently. Replacing the tradition of a therapist asking you to lie on a sofa and talk about your childhood, are therapists who view themselves as expert consultants, able to teach you the techniques and strategies needed to get what you want out of life. Therapy has become solution-focused and results-oriented, making video sessions an ideal platform for counseling.

In today’s busy world, many people find it difficult to schedule an hour plus commute to their therapist’s office on a weekly basis. Others do not want to sit in traffic, add another appointment to their day, or may want to see a specialist who is not located in their neighborhood. Telehealth provides a convenient solution.

Telehealth can provide greater ease and flexibility, and research shows it can be just as effective as traditional therapy. So which option should you choose?

How is Telehealth different from In-Person therapy?

In-person therapy means face-to-face in the same room or office with your therapist. The therapist provides the office space for your therapy session. Telehealth services are provided remotely, meaning that you and your therapist could be miles apart. Your sessions are assisted with HIPAA-secure technology, such as phone, video conferencing, email, online chat platforms, and even texts. In this model, you are responsible for making sure your space is private and confidential, and you feel comfortable enough to speak freely and be able to benefit from the session in the environment you have created.

Telehealth offers the advantage of making therapy services accessible to anyone, anywhere. This makes it easier to access the treatment you need. If the distance to travel to a therapist or the desire to see a specialist who is not in your area has held you back from therapy before, Telehealth might be a viable option to explore. If you want clear, directed, results-oriented therapy this can be easily delivered over Telehealth and help you reach your treatment goals quickly and effectively.

Teletherapy session, Telemedicine therapy, telehealth appointement

Who can benefit from Telehealth?

Anyone who is looking for results-focused treatment, in which the therapist serves as a teacher to help you gain the skills, techniques, and confidence to apply new strategies to your life and see the changes you want, can be a good match for Telehealth. In short, treatments focusing on helping you build skills to effect change are easily delivered via Teletherapy. Treatments such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) can help you with anxiety, depression, emotion dysregulation and interpersonal problems in an online format.

Clients who succeed with Teletherapy have the ability to provide a private, confidential space that allows them the focus needed to gain the benefits from their online sessions. Practical considerations such as having a strong internet connection, making sure your space is soundproofed enough so that you can express yourself freely, and having pen and paper handy, will ensure you get the most from your Telehealth treatment. With an online session, you do not have to lug your notebooks, writing materials, etc., to your therapy appointments. Everything you need is already at your fingertips.

Telehealth also allows you the luxury of sitting in your space, taking notes, and thinking or processing after the session has ended. Many people who have experienced face-to-face counseling know how abrupt it can feel to end a session after exploring vulnerable topics and then head out into the busy world again. With Telehealth, you have the opportunity to slowly absorb what you have learned, perhaps make a plan for optimizing your week ahead, and at your pace, slowly transition back into the outside environment.

Telehealth can also help people utilize counseling when they otherwise could not access services. This is especially true for people that live in rural areas or overseas, where they may not be able to find a therapist in their area with the expertise they need. People who have limited mobility due to health problems, age, or chronic illness can also find Telehealth helpful. Busy professionals and parents who may not have access to childcare can find Teletherapy an ideal choice. The goal is to access help with more convenience.

Does Telehealth really work?

When Telehealth was very new, there was some initial concern that it might not work as well as traditional therapy. However, research has found that remote therapy can be just as helpful as in-person treatment, with equivalent patient satisfaction scores. The benefits of convenience and accessibility make Telehealth the ideal solution in our increasingly busy and technology-driven world.

To find out if Teletherapy could be the right fit for you, speak with a therapist who specializes in Telehealth services and start shifting from surviving to thriving today!


Mindfulness Made Simple

As part of my practice as an action-based psychologist, I teach skills for emotional health and well-being. All of these skills start with the foundation of MINDFULNESS – purposeful awareness in the present moment.

My full definition of mindfulness is: The PRACTICE of adopting a curious, nonjudgmental, and gentle stance while cultivating awareness in the present moment by bringing one’s attention to an intended focus in an effective way.

That’s a dense definition. Let’s just concentrate on the PRACTICE part of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a practice. No one, no matter how much they have meditated or read or talked about mindfulness, can ever make the declarative statement, “I am now mindful.” Mindfulness is a practice, and we slip in and out of this state. When practiced on a regular basis, we build the skill of mindfulness, a first and crucial step to peace, happiness and emotional freedom. When we strengthen our mindfulness skills, we can be more aware and awake in our lives and make conscious choices more often.

Intentionally bringing awareness to yourself and your environment is the first step to building your mindfulness muscle. One way to practice is through a simple daily meditation. Meditation does not have to be complicated. Placing your attention on three breaths as you inhale and exhale can reap benefits.

Even when your mind is very busy this practice is effective. You can attempt, as best you can, to notice yourself breathing for three inhalations and exhalations. When your mind wanders, as minds do, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Do this as many times as is needed during those three inhalations and exhalations. When you bring your mind back after it wanders, it is like doing a rep with your mindfulness muscle. Think of your mind wandering as something that is supposed to happen, and the act of bringing your mind back to your breath, even if only for a second, is like lifting a heavy weight with perfect form and building this focused muscle.

The more you practice (even if it is three breaths once a day), you will start to notice more about your experiences sooner and sooner. For example, you may observe that you are somewhat stressed earlier in the day before it turns into being overwhelmed. Knowing and recognizing what is going on is a powerful tool to allow you to begin making changes.  See video below to practice.

As with anything, reading this article will not change your life. What will? TAKING ACTION! Here are two options for something you can do today:

  1.  Pause, right now, in this moment and notice where you feel your breath in your body. You do not have to change or alter your breath, simply become aware of what your breath is doing right now. Attempt to place your attention on feeling your breath in your body for the next 3 breaths, and when your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath. Notice the effect this has on you in the moment and the rest of your day.
  2. PRACTICE with my short, guided introduction to mindfulness.

 

LIFE IS TOO SHORT JUST TO SURVIVE. THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE!

Thank you,

Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.

Questions or comments? Email them to contact@drbando.com. While Dr. Bando will not answer personally, she may address your question(s) or comment(s) in a future newsletter.


3 Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Skills You Can Use to Transform Your Life Now

Dialectical Behavior Therapy is designed to help you better understand your feelings and emotions and free you from feeling trapped by them. Rather than simply analyzing your problem, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) teaches specific skills that can be used in everyday life to give you greater happiness and wellbeing. So many people feel that they know what’s wrong, they just need the clarity and skills to work with the issues. DBT empowers you to do just that, with the ongoing support of a therapist’s guidance.

The skills learned in DBT fall under four umbrellas – Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Interpersonal Effectiveness, and Emotion Regulation. Here we look at three skills you can learn in Dialectical Behavior Therapy and that you can use right now to bring real change to your life.

Identify and Label

Mindfulness is the ability to know and be aware of what is going on around you and within you. With the distractions and busy-ness of modern life, this is not as easy as it sounds. Consciously and intentionally bringing awareness to ourselves and our environment is the first step to building our mindfulness muscle.

When we are beginners, one of the most effective ways to do this is through meditation or a mindful activity like slow walking. Meditation does not have to be complicated. Placing your attention on three breaths as you inhale and exhale can reap benefits. (Remember, when your mind wanders, as minds do, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Do this as many times as is needed during those three inhalations and exhalations.) As you do these mindful activities, notice what you feel, physically and internally, and identify these qualities by giving them a name, like ‘step,’ ‘breath in,’ ‘breath out’; or even ‘anger,’ ‘worry,’ and ‘self-criticism.’ As you become more skilled at doing this, you can extend it to everyday situations, like driving to work, being in a meeting or having an argument. Simply knowing and recognizing what is going on is a powerful tool to allow you to begin making changes.

Accept Things As They Are (even if you want them to change)

Once you’ve learned to recognize and understand what is going on inside and around you, it is easier to work with these feelings. In some cases, you may identify things you can change. For example, every time you walk past the bakery, you notice a craving for cookies, so you can choose not to take that route anymore. To make that decision to change your course, you had to be aware that this caused a craving in you and accept this reality. If you spent effort pushing away and denying that this craving was a problem for you, or you were not aware this desire increased when you passed the bakery, you would not have been able to apply the solution of walking a different route.

Working skillfully with our feelings is also about recognizing what we can’t change, and accepting rather than fighting against them. One way to do this is to cope with a distressing moment by having a one-mindful focus. Learning to focus on one point, like your breath, a candle or flower, or sounds, can draw your attention to this one-pointed focus and give you time to calm down. Your Dialectical Behavior Therapist can work with you to develop a range of different coping skills to help you walk through difficult moments that will inevitably arise.

Taking Care of Yourself to Regulate Emotions

When you feel angry, hurt, or another painful emotion, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. You might even feel like your emotions are out of control. Fortunately, Dialectical Behavior Therapy can teach you how to manage emotions, so you feel more in the driver’s seat of your experience. A first step you can take, even before feeling a painful emotion, is to manage your vulnerability factors.

Eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, resting and taking time off when you need it can all help. By taking care of your body and health needs, you are making yourself more resilient to challenging situations. Imagine being cut off in traffic when you are well-rested, have had enough nutritious food to eat, are wearing comfortable clothing and had a nice walk out in the sun earlier that day. Someone cutting you off probably won’t have much of an impact. Now imagine someone cutting you off and you are sleep deprived, hungry and haven’t had any exercise. If you’re like most people, being cut off will have much more impact, and you will be more likely to experience intense emotions. Although life circumstances prevent us from always taking care of our bodies in an ideal way, the more we can do our best to take good care, the more emotionally resilient and better able to ride out life’s difficult moments we will be.

A skilled therapist can help you develop the DBT skills that work best for you to give you greater freedom and happiness in life. You don’t have to live each day as a struggle – talk to a therapist who uses Dialectical Behavior Therapy to learn more about these life changing skills today.


The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

By Rumi


The Guest House may be my favorite poem ever written. I have been known to call it the holy grail for emotional well-being and general happiness in life.

More often than not, our suffering is caused by trying not to feel uncomfortable. It makes sense, right? We are human beings. We are built to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Hurt, sadness, fear, and shame receive a big, “NO,THANK YOU!” Happiness, elation, love, and passion are welcomed with, “YES, PLEASE! In fact, give me seconds!”

Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain is human nature. We gravitate toward what feels pleasant, and even call these things “good” and reject or run away from the unpleasant, that which we call “bad”.

Let’s take a moment to remember what Rumi is telling us.

“Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.”

Nowhere does this imply we should hunker down, shut our eyes, brace ourselves and hope that anything uncomfortable ends quickly. Instead, let’s WELCOME and ENTERTAIN every emotion that comes. Oh, Rumi, you crazy 13th-century poet, why on earth would we want to do that?!

This poet is on to something here. Something I call the secret sauce of emotion regulation. Something huge, important and completely life changing. In fact, if I could teach anyone I reach to do one thing, it would be this: Welcome your emotions regardless of whether or not you like them.

“The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.”

What a HUGE change in perspective this requires.

We must shift from an – “Oh no! Make this feeling go away!”  – perspective, to a – “Welcome! Come on in! I’ve set a place at the table for you,” – perspective.

To change our stance in this way is no easy feat. It is a daily practice, something we must do as often as showering or brushing our teeth. Remember, we are hard-wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain, so we are going against our nature here. Good thing the rewards are great: EMOTIONAL FREEDOM!

If we learned to practice welcoming our emotions on a daily basis in this way, my prediction is that we would eradicate depression, anxiety, and many, if not most, disorders. That is a bold statement, and I stand by it! I have not yet, in over a decade of seeing many clients come through my office, witnessed anyone suffering from depression or anxiety while simultaneously welcoming their emotions. This is not a failure on anyone’s part. This is a skill we’ve got to learn, and unfortunately, usually aren’t taught as part of the growing up process. Be encouraged though, because no matter your age, this skill can be learned.

As always, your life will not change by reading this article or thinking about it. Rather, PRACTICE, PRACTICE and then more PRACTICE will help you build emotional resilience. If you would like some guidance practicing welcoming in your emotions, listen to this 8-minute audio, CLICK HERE. This is perfect to listen to when feeling a painful emotion, or as a daily exercise.

LIFE’S TOO SHORT JUST TO SURVIVE. THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE!

Thank you,

Amanda Gale-Bando, Ph.D.

Questions or comments? Email them to contact@drbando.com. While Dr. Bando will not answer personally, she may address your question(s) or comment(s) in a future newsletter.

 

 


Name that Emotion

We’ve all got things to do and people to see. Who needs unwanted emotions slowing us down? Just ignore them, and maybe they’ll go away. Right?

Here’s the hitch: emotions are hard-wired into our human experience. In other words, emotions are part of us and the more we push them away, the louder they become. When we deny and try to block out emotions, we starve them until the emotional hunger pains are so strong, we become overwhelmed with unruly, overbearing, unable-to-control feelings.  You know, that moment someone asks you something harmless like to pass the salt, and you completely lose your cool? When we suppress or don’t acknowledge emotions, they bubble up, and like water boiling in a covered pot with the burner on high, eventually they’re going to blow.

The solution? Don’t ignore the monster!

Emotions grow to become monsters when we ignore them, push through them, judge them and just plain do whatever it takes to try not to feel them. There is a better way! The next time you feel an unpleasant emotion, try noticing it and putting a name to it.

Scientists call this affect labeling. It goes something like this:

  • I am noticing a feeling of butterflies in my stomach. I’m nervous.
  • I feel a lifting, light feeling in my chest and shoulders. I’m happy.
  • I feel like it’s hard to move. I notice that I’m slumped and don’t feel like doing anything. I’m sad.
  • I can’t believe that guy just cut me off. I’m irritated.

When we give our emotion a name, it starts the process of calming it down. Instead of pushing the feelings away, we pay attention and engage our intellect to give it a name. Once emotions are acknowledged and paid attention to, they start to digest and let go of their grip. Relief can get his foot in the door, and we initiate the process of regulating emotions and feeling more in control.

 

Brain imaging studies explain the science behind affect labeling: When we experience an emotion, a part of our brain called the amygdala, gets activated. When our amygdala is very active and fired up, it is hard to access the reasoning part of our brain, the frontal lobes.

How to become Happy, Breaking through an Obstacle, Orinda Psychologist, Lafayette Psychologist, Berkeley Psychologist, Oakland Psychologist, Moraga, Alamo

 

When we use techniques like affect labeling, we begin to activate our frontal lobes (the organizing, planning, thinking-through part of the brain) and de-activate the amygdala (the “OMG!” emotional part of the brain).

 

How to become Happy, Breaking through an Obstacle, Orinda Psychologist, Lafayette Psychologist, Berkeley Psychologist, Oakland Psychologist, Moraga, Alamo

 

PRACTICE:

The next time you are “freaking out” or “stressed” or just “feeling off,” try getting specific. What emotion are you feeling? Can you put a label on it?

How to become Happy, Breaking through an Obstacle, Orinda Psychologist, Lafayette Psychologist, Berkeley Psychologist, Oakland Psychologist, Moraga, Alamo

Now, reinforce yourself by checking out the Reinforcement Practice Sheet and get some suggestions on how to reinforce yourself. You’ve just taken the first step toward processing and letting go of that unpleasant emotion.

LIFE’S TOO SHORT JUST TO SURVIVE. THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE!


Nonjudgment for Emotion Regulation

Earlier this month, I sent out a call for nonjudgment. In this time of chaos, violence, fear, and confusion, nonjudgment can be a place of refuge. Practicing nonjudgment gives us three profound gifts:

  • complete understanding
  • the power to move into compassionate, effective action
  • the ability to defuse our emotions

Let’s focus on that last gift, the ability to defuse emotions. In over a decade of working with clients, I have never once seen anyone be able to let go of and regulate an emotional response while clinging to judgments. Only when practicing nonjudgment, can regulation and emotional freedom begin.

Example:

Imagine you are quite unhappy with a manager at work. She is incompetent and makes ridiculous requests of you and the rest of her staff. You don’t know how she was ever hired for this job, let alone maintains it because most of the time, she is just plain wrong and inappropriate. It is unfair that you have to work with her.

Imagine the emotions you might feel if you were in this situation. Anger and a sense of injustice and self-righteousness, maybe? Every time you interact with this manager, you might feel like rolling your eyes, sighing and throwing up your hands in this hopeless situation.

Now try to feel better about it. Look at the situation detailed above and attempt to calm your emotions and let it go.

Not working? Impossible? Let’s try an easier way.

Look at the same example, with a line drawn through each judgment:

Imagine you are quite unhappy with a manager at work. She is incompetent and makes ridiculous requests of you and the rest of her staff. You don’t know how she was ever hired for this job, let alone maintains it because most of the time, she is just plain wrong and inappropriate. It is unfair that you have to work with her.

Without using judgment words, how would you describe this situation? Before you attempt, remember that nonjudgment is describing things as they are, without adding opinions or evaluations. It does NOT mean pretending you like or want something that you don’t. In other words,

nonjudgment = truth.

Let’s look at a nonjudgmental way of describing the same situation:

You are quite unhappy with a manager at work. You do not understand why she makes the requests she does and how they improve the function of the department or the company. After you engage with this manager, you often feel frustrated. Your peers have commented about feeling a diminished sense of morale at work due to interactions with this manager. You are disappointed by your daily interactions with her.

Notice that I don’t have to ask how you feel (as in the first example) because you’ve already described it – frustrated and disappointed. Now we’ve got something to work with!

 You might ask, “How does this help me regulate my emotions? The manager is still difficult for me to work with and I still don’t like the situation.”

This is true, AND you have gone from overwhelmed and hopeless to frustrated and disappointed. When your emotions are not bogged down by judgments and the helplessness or unrelenting anger that judgment creates, you have POWER. When we become aware that we are making judgments, we give ourselves choice – choice about whether or not it is helpful for us to proceed with our judgmental thinking, feeling, and behaving, or whether we would like to choose another path.

I teach my clients many emotion regulation strategies. Tools include step-by-step skills to come up with creative solutions to solve the problem, strategies to release the grip of the emotion and feel differently, and at times, complete and total acceptance (which often leads to emotional and environmental changes we previously didn’t know were possible). Practicing nonjudgment is a required prerequisite to these changes.

Nonjudgment does not eliminate the pain. It takes it down a notch so that you can breathe, get a bit of distance from the intensity of emotion, and regulate the emotions and/or solve the problem. If you are interested in further developing the skill of nonjudgment, try the practice suggestions below:

  • Practice noticing judgments throughout your day. When you are aware of yourself (or someone else) making a judgmental statement, or you have a judgmental thought, say to yourself “judgment.” (Over time, noticing and labeling judgments helps us become more aware of them and gives us a choice about the most effective way to proceed.)
  • Plan to sit and focus on your thoughts for 30 seconds to a minute. Imagine two different boxes, labeled “judgment thoughts” and “other thoughts.” For the next 30 seconds to a minute, notice any thoughts that come into your mind and imagine placing them in the appropriate box.
  • The next time you notice yourself being judgmental, see if you can describe (verbally or in writing) the same situation nonjudgmentally. That is, truthfully and descriptively, without judgment.

Notice the effect(s) each of these practices have on your mood, emotions, thinking. Feel free to share them on my Facebook page or in a private email. (While I may not be able to respond to all emails, I will read them and appreciate the feedback and being able to share in your experience.)

LIFE’S TOO SHORT JUST TO SURVIVE. THAT’S WHY I HELP PEOPLE THRIVE!


REINFORCEMENT is the most effective way to achieve lasting change.

If you know or have worked with me, you have most probably heard me say that REINFORCEMENT is the most effective way to achieve lasting change. Years of research and over a decade of my own professional and personal practice have shown this to be true again and again. When you want to change behavior, define steps toward your goals (that are possible for you to take) and reinforce them over and over again. Then what? Well, then it gets interesting.

As it turns out, change is not a linear process. Progress does not happen in a straight, upward moving way. It does NOT look like this:

How to Change, Orinda, Danville, Overcoming Depression, Berkeley, Oakland, individual counseling, psychologist, lifestyle change, breaking through obstacles

 

Even powerfully reinforcing a behavior does not produce change in an upward, no mistakes fashion. We do not go from eating processed food that drains our energy to reinforcing whole foods eating and suddenly, in 10 days, reform our eating for life, with no going back. Change just doesn’t work like that.

Rather, change is messy and looks more like this:

How to Change, Orinda, Danville, Overcoming Depression, Berkeley, Oakland, individual counseling, psychologist, lifestyle change, breaking through obstacles

What this means is that we will inevitably slip back into old, ineffective behaviors. Most of the time, you WILL go back to engaging in behaviors that you would like to stop. Even if you follow behavior-change protocols to a perfect “T”, you will find yourself engaging in old, ineffective behavior at some point. You will eat that food that drains your energy, blow off that walk to watch TV, stay up later and get less rest than you know you need.

My message to you is this: Be ENCOURAGED by this part of the change process!

Let’s look back at the messy model of change. The green line going through the graph represents the slope of the line or the rate of change. Notice that although there were setbacks in progress along the way, overall, progress is upward moving!

How to Change, Orinda, Danville, Overcoming Depression, Berkeley, Oakland, individual counseling, psychologist, lifestyle change, breaking through obstacles

Going back to old behaviors is part of the process of change, not failure! Going backward momentarily can mean that progress is happening. You are headed in the right direction and engaging in old, ineffective behaviors is part of making the changes you want. Now that you know this, you can give up on the illusion of perfection.

Isn’t that empowering?!

You can anticipate this process and give yourself a break when it happens. Instead of judging yourself, giving yourself a mental slap with harsh self-critical thinking, or giving up, you can reinforce yourself for noticing when you’ve gotten off track and decide the most effective step to take next. “Failure” is an opportunity to notice, reinforce, take a small step toward the path you want to be on, and reinforce! Practice this over and over and over until the practice becomes what you automatically do.

The more you engage in this cycle,

How to Change, Orinda, Danville, Overcoming Depression, Berkeley, Oakland, individual counseling, psychologist, lifestyle change, breaking through obstacles

the sooner you will notice lasting change happen and stick. Remember, going back to your old ways is a part of change, not failure! What happens is that the more we notice we’ve reverted to old ways, reinforce our noticing, and get back on track, the sooner we will get back on course and more quickly reach our goals.

Keep going, keep practicing and try to enjoy and laugh in the process.

Remember, life’s too short just to survive. That’s why I help people THRIVE!


© 2017 Amanda Gale Bando Phd · Designed and Developed by D-Kode Technology

Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando

Dr. Amanda Gale-Bando