The Do’s and Don’ts of New Years Resolutions

Hello Everyone.

 

I am excited to be back now that the storm and stress of the holidays are over. I hope y’all had a happy holiday and I wish you the happiest of New Year’s which, incidentally, brings me to today’s topic: New Year’s resolutions.  The featured picture above is from January 2nd, 2015.  My New Year’s resolution that year was to get washboard abs and touch the backboard at the basketball court.  In those days; Cody was dreaming big, but he also characterized all of the wrong things to do when setting goals for himself and below is where I’ll tell you why.

 

I can see it now; all the bold proclamations of 2019 being filled with more happiness, more money, better relationships, and a better handle on life, because aren’t all of us just sick of 2018? Unfortunately, come February, I will start seeing memes lamenting 2019 and all its pitfalls, partly due to the unrelenting political and societal tornadoes that will inevitably rage on, despite our efforts to be optimistic. When it comes to pass, the downfall of the coming year will be personal, but it won’t happen right away. New Year’s resolutions have a sneaky way of slowly fading as our initial wave of grit and determination for change is engulfed by an even stronger wave of the realities, expectations, and doubts that slowly chip away at the framework of our ambition for the concept of the “new year, new me” idea. Luckily, I am here to help!  Not because I have any clinical expertise that is going to make or break your New Year’s resolution, but because I am much better at being accountable to myself and others when I am able to deconstruct the reasons why I, as well as all of you, have failed in the past. So, without further ado, let’s get it!

 

Don’t: Don’t create a resolution based on what someone else (or society) is telling you to change. You must really think hard about this because many of you have probably stopped to ask yourself if the 15 pounds you plan on losing is for you or for those in your life who have made you believe that those 15 pounds have contributed to a lesser sense of self-worth, attractiveness, or ability. When we put our value in the hands of those who judge us, we have lost the ability to be self-compassionate.

 

Do: If 2019 is the year for physical, mental, or emotional transformations, make sure that the values that drive this journey begin and end with you and nobody else. This way, you can celebrate each step, reward small victories, and appreciate the challenges. The external rewards will only come if we live in appreciation and compassion, rather than comparison and criticism.

 

Don’t: Don’t create a resolution that is too vague. We have all fallen victim to this. I made a resolution once that I was going to do 200 push-ups a day (yes, I was trying to impress a girl).  Anyways, I lasted about 2 weeks and then I forgot why I was even doing the push-ups. The action was specific, but the actual goal was undefinable. When we idealize a result, we often overlook how hard the process may be and that leads to gaps in what we want, and what it is we need to do to achieve what we want. I hope people aren’t mad that I am dampening their dreams for a transformative 2019; in-fact, I would encourage the creation of bold resolutions as long as there is an action plan that follows (we will get to that part!).

 

Don’t: Don’t set a resolution without a realistic plan of achievement. Now, I don’t blame anyone for not having a realistic plan. How are we supposed to know what sorts of twists and turns a new year may have in store for us? This is where I tell people to dream big but plan conservatively. We are destined to be discouraged along the way and our biggest weapon is our ability to plan for the hiccups, rather than succumb to the setbacks. I am unfortunately learning this the hard way as I have begun to tackle my New Year’s resolution early. Long story short, I was exceedingly optimistic about a new workout/lifestyle regimen that I had begun. I planned this new lifestyle in conjunction with my busy schedule, tracked my progress in a compassionate way, and reflected each day on my motivations in starting this new endeavor. Unfortunately, life happens, and it happened to me yesterday as I seemed to have pulled a muscle in my chest while working out. To paint you a picture, it’s as if my left boob is an A cup and the other is a solid C cup.

 

Do:  Alas, my plan of achievement has not ended with this setback, rather it has given me the chance to reflect on the limits to which I can push my body. My point is, for resolutions to stick we must always find the ability to adapt appropriately, rather than dwell on the circumstances as they stand. I could have given up, and trust me, I have given up plenty of times before. I didn’t give up this time because, for the first time in my life, I have created a resolution that stands true to my values, my intrinsic motivation, and what I feel I deserve.

 

My Biggest Takeaway: Make it personal. I have the unique pleasure of sitting down with people who so desperately want their lives to change but are unable to access the motivation to take action until the clock strikes midnight into a New Year. In honor of full transparency, I hate New Year’s resolutions precisely because they enable excuses and reinforce doubt. There is no magic to a change in the calendar. In my work with clients, we explore from day one where the barriers are to change and, more often than not, we find the inner saboteur!  Some of my former clients, mentees, and students will read this and laugh because in my work, I don’t often sympathize with excuses, although I will empathize with feelings of stagnation, and overall dissatisfaction. I’ve been described as a cheerleader, a weird motivator, and an annoying mentor. Do these descriptions accurately describe my style? Probably. But, with that said, I want my clients, my friends, and my colleagues to know that I will work as hard as I can to help create the life that they wish to actualize. All I ask is that they work just as hard as I do in helping them attain their goals.

 

Finally, I am not immune to lapses in motivation, “falling off the wagon”, or slipping in my personal and professional goals. I crave accountability much like most of you do through trainers, coaches, and friendships alike. My hope for you is that you access the support you need to help achieve your goals. In therapy and through my new life coaching endeavor, I’ve found that my best asset to those I serve is my ability to provide mutual support in times of self-doubt and to reaffirm the values, intrinsic motivators, and the potential of my clients to remind them of how far they’ve come in their journey towards their best selves. We are programmed for resilience, overcoming obstacles, and persevering through life’s challenges. The roadblocks we create are a product of our thoughts, and my greatest pleasure in this work is to remind people of their worth and ambition, rather than leave them alone with their doubt and their judgment.   

 

Thank you for reading!   If you connect with my writing and you are curious about the work I do with clients in my life-coaching world, you are more than welcome to set up a free phone/skype consult with me by emailing at advancelifecoaches.cgauthier@gmail.com  

 

Finally, a huge thank you to Vanessa Moses who has been with me since day one and is doing fantastic work in freelance writing and editing here: https://www.upwork.com/o/profiles/users/_~011e6d3a26b57a6a2b/

 

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Where Joy Hides

Hello everyone,

 

I would first like to send out  an apology to all my readers for being on a bit of a hiatus lately. As you may have seen, my work life has ramped up in a myriad of different ways which has taken time away from writing. With that said, I am excited to announce that throughout the next month or two, I will be a guest on a few podcasts to talk about mental health, addiction, my story, and the ways in which I work with clients, so please be on the lookout for that!

 

Today’s topic is about joy, and I can’t help but acknowledge the fundamental joy I experience writing. Moreover, what’s hidden beneath the joy of producing content is the state of mind I’m in while writing. To give you an example, I’ll paint a picture of my experience at this moment. I am lounging comfortably on an air mattress, propped up by two pillows that almost give the illusion of a recliner (yes, I know I should go get real furniture). On my left is a steaming cup of Starbucks coffee that I brewed myself–too strongly, by the way, because I always measure the wrong amount and am left with the strongest coffee on the planet–and a roommate who has never liked coffee. To my right is Sven, my roommates beautiful cavalier puppy who has been licking my elbow for two straight minutes because he knows I’m dirty from this morning’s gym session. In this moment my joy is not extravagant, it’s not complicated, it’s not grandiose, and it’s not individually controlled. In this moment, my joy just is.

People who know me might start to wonder if this mindset is the product of the “California Lifestyle”, or “a quarter life crisis”–which I fully expect to happen by the way! Nonetheless, this moment of joy runs counter to everything I knew about joy because I always used to equate it with happiness, and that is where the crux of this week’s topic begins.

Joy and happiness are not synonymous. We are often exhausted by our pursuit of happiness, worn out by our attempts to “achieve” happiness, and let down by our expectations falling flat. We rely on external experiences to satisfy our own internal navigation system for what happiness is, and oftentimes we are left wondering how on earth our system let us down when  more money, more prestige, and more notoriety hasn’t satisfied us. If you know someone like this or happen to be one, this blog might be for you because it’s certainly what I needed to hear. For folks who expect some form of expertise, I am sorry to inform you that my writing this blog is like asking someone who just got out of Pre-Calculus to go teach the AP Calculus course. Nonetheless, you’re still reading, so here is my take on why joy is different and how joy might be the secret ingredient to our collective appreciation of life, regardless of how happy we perceive ourselves to be.

 

1.  There is a certain aesthetic to joy, we just need to know what to look for.

I feel, I sense, and I perceive; The aesthetics of joy are life’s rose-colored glasses.  It’s the sunset we don’t take for granted, the book we can’t put down, and the simple moments in which life moves slow and beauty is captured. In the pursuit of these moments we often stumble because joy is not about control, but rather relinquishing it, if only for a brief moment.

Joy is about letting yourself feel in the moment because that moment is all that you need. The challenge I give to myself and to my clients who feel as though their lives are devoid of joy is to wonder how hard they are searching. We lose sight of joy when we go chasing it or try to manipulate the feeling. We become  “experts” at manipulating joy if the end goal is to achieve “happiness”. Unfortunately, that mindset is our biggest downfall. Instead, I ask my clients to be compassionate detectives. Funnily enough, this was a 13 year-old client’s idea, because according to him detectives are always curious and they find the coolest things. In a way, that wisdom holds true to the aesthetics of joy. When we operate with the mind of a compassionate detective we remain curious of what cool things life naturally allows us to have, thus, joy comes easier and more abundantly.

 

2.  We can “design for joy”.

 To explain, I would like to give an anecdote about my office. I have never been much of an interior designer. Fortunately for me, my colleagues understood how to design for joy even when I thought the idea was stupid. As an intern, I had a closet for a therapy office and I never really thought much of it until my amazing colleague came in and laughed at how small, dull, and boring my space was. She said that if she were a client, she would be more depressed stepping into that office. The next day, she brought in a tapestry of a beautiful sunrise forest, put up a few cute posters, and prompted me to put a few pictures up. In the span of one week my office had been transformed.

Since I’m admittedly stubborn I didn’t think much of the potential impact it might have. Day after day my assumptions were proven wrong by my own clients who were amazed by the transformation and admitted that the aura had changed the way they presented in the space which opened them up to a better and more effective therapeutic alliance. I had been proven wrong and, from that day forward, I have never taken for granted the value of designing for joy. To design all of our most personal spaces for joy is practical because the essence of joy is comfort and peace and that is something we all deserve.

3.  Joy is an invitation.

I want to end by saying that I didn’t always invite joy into my life. Instead I neglected it in the pursuit of something unattainable and self-defeating.  We often neglect, avoid, or misinterpret joy in its purest form when it is truly just an invitation. The biggest lesson that I am still coming to terms with is that sinking in the beauty of small moments doesn’t mean the world is perfect. To know that there will still be space for joy in an imperfect world is giving ourselves permission to let it in. It’s time that we let ourselves accept the invitation.

 

Thank you for supporting this blog and, if you haven’t already, like my facebook page to get in on more conversations. https://www.facebook.com/thehumanexperience2/

Additionally, if you connect with my writing and you are curious about the work I do with clients in my life coaching world, you are more than welcome to set up a free consult with me at https://www.advancelifecoaches.com/

 

Finally, a huge thank you to Vanessa Moses who has been with me since day one and is doing fantastic work in freelance writing and editing here: https://www.upwork.com/o/profiles/users/_~011e6d3a26b57a6a2b/:)

The Disguises of Depression

Fine Photo

Hello Everyone!

Today I want to start with a disclaimer that this blog is less about the clinical definition of depression and its criteria, and more about the many ways in which its touch permeates through all of us at different parts of our lives.  In sessions with clients I’ve described it as many things, like a rain cloud, a weighted blanket, being stuck in the depths of the ocean, fighting an invisible ninja, walking through a thick fog, and my most profound metaphor, the waterboarding of your soul.

Those readers who have followed me since day one know that I love playing on words to describe the human experience.  In the case of depression, that wordplay becomes a necessity to describe such a crushing attack of the mind and body as paranormal and otherworldly because, to the individual, it is.  On the other hand, the use of the word “depression” has been widely normalized to describe the plight of a day gone wrong, an opportunity squandered, or receiving a sandwich without pickles.

Today, I am going to do my best in sharing with you the more intimate and unique ways depression has reared its ugly head in my direction and how I learned to sneak up on it before it snuck up on me.  Additionally, I want to give light to the overpowering experience of depression through the lens of the clients that have been smothered by this disorder of the mind.  There will be a follow-up blog next week exclusively talking about resources, coping strategies, and recovery. When that time comes I look forward to hearing your insights, personal stories, and how you have managed to bring depth and experience to this important topic.

Let’s begin with a story.  A 22-year-old man is juggling a demanding schedule of graduate school classes, the semi-conscious awareness of a failing relationship, the growing financial burden that comes with sporadic employment, and the overwhelming guilt for asking for support from his primary family.  Let’s sprinkle in the need for controlling a social life that is dissipating due to the obligations of the failing relationship coupled with a blind sense of pride this man has in only revealing a mask of happiness to others, even if behind the smile and the sparkling blue eyes with the weird red spot in the corner is someone who is barely holding on emotionally; but nobody can know that.

My Story

Here lies the critical voice; what I’ve in the past called the ultimate antagonist in the movie that is my life.  This voice tells me that men can’t ask for help; it tells me that I will let everyone down if I don’t keep pretending I am happy; it tells me that I should be ashamed, but it also hammers that shame in by telling me there is no way out until the internalized hole I am digging becomes too deep to crawl out of.  Believe me, my ultimate antagonist does not pull any punches when it comes to me questioning my own worth, my ability to receive love, my physical flaws, and my ability to do the job of my dreams. It does not hold back one bit…and with each week the storm cloud gets darker.  Of course, some days the cloud will only pass by, drizzling a little rain just as I thought I could enjoy a good day at my internship, or have a good talk on the phone with my family.  On my best days, the cloud is merely in the background, reminding me that it isn’t out of my peripheral vision.  Those are the days I will surround myself with loved ones or have one of my many life changing experiences at my internship.

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The “Happy Mask”

 

The most insidious aspect of situational depression is in its ability to give moments of stability before the storm rolls back in.  That is my story, and it begins and ends with beliefs that are not originally my own, but that I inherited and have succumbed to in times of overwhelming change, self-doubt, and insecurity.  This episode lasted months and has become a jarring reminder for me that I am not immune to struggling with mental health, as much as I would like to convince myself otherwise.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I want to make space in a separate blog to talk about the many ways we cope, seek support, and battle our ultimate antagonist in the real-life movie that is our lives.

In the clinical world, there are variations to this disorder that severely alter the course of treatment.  We never look to generalize the experience or the symptomology.  Ultimately, the goal is to explore the etiology, identify the impact, and move forward in a way that is individualized.  Unfortunately, my story does not even begin to touch the pervasive and perilous effects of chronic major depression that sweeps in like a hurricane and which never lets you out of its torturous wind tunnel.

My Client’s Take on How Depression Affects Her

Before I end this piece, I want to give a snippet from a client I worked with who graciously let me into the torturous wind tunnel that is her depression. (Disclaimer: she has since done fantastic work and is able to narrate her story from outside of the tunnel now. As you can tell, she has an astonishingly creative mind, but let’s save that for the next blog).

In the midst of processing the experience of Major Depression and the strangle hold it has on her, she colorfully exclaims that the setting is in the darkness of the sea in which she floats towards the bottom alone.  Startled, she begins to thrash around trying to keep from drowning.  She tries her best to fight her way back to the surface. Oxygen is hope, and it takes so much effort to find enough just to take a few heaving breathes before being pulled back down.  Eventually, it seems more rational to stop fighting, to stop flailing effortlessly at the light gleaming from the surface, so she sinks.  She spends long enough down there and soon begins to forget what the light even looks like. That makes it much too difficult to reach out even if she wanted to.  “Normal” life on the surface seems so far away, like a distant memory, and she can’t even remember what it was like, anyway, so why bother?  She becomes scared to move upward, afraid of what kind of monsters might be lurking up there just waiting to chew her up and pull her back down.  She’s just as terrified of falling further downward and hitting rock bottom. Most of all, though, she’s petrified of being in the same spot she’s in, in the darkness and all alone.

Thank you all for reading, and keep an eye out for part two of this discussion next week! As always, I appreciate everyone’s continued support.

Get In On the Conversation!

Please message, leave comments, and start a conversation in any of these places: https://thehumanexperienc.wordpress.com/

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or on the new page where I will be producing blogs:

https://advancelifecoaches.wixsite.com/website/blog?fbclid=IwAR3Dpzz57vL7ANissTFtXGwryDPTChuvjFRlcu_1IqGtkGG6HQWu7pCCxFY

Thank you to Vanessa for her support and editing capabilities and to Bryce for his content contributions.
Contact Vanessa to set up an appointment for any editing or writing help at mosesvj93@gmail.com

“The Secret” to Happiness

hug yourself

If y’all are wondering, yes this is click bait!  I can already imagine half my readers viewing this post in hopes for the secrets of unbridled and genuine happiness while the other half are here to scoff at the idea of such a thing.  Just the thought of me being the one to give this all-important lesson on happiness makes me chuckle because I’ve got a long way to go folks!  So, what the hell is this blog about then?  Well, I thought we could talk about the idea of happiness, where we find it, where we often lose it, and the ways in which we are socially responsible to publicize it.

Believe it or not, I’ve been asked many times by my clients, “How can I find happiness?”  Of course, this is a generalizable question that has been asked in a myriad of different ways from those who step into my office with the burdens of the world in their past and a constant concern about the future.

If you were in my chair, you might say, “Take more time in your social relationships; worry less about things and focus more on experiences.”  This is fantastic fortune cookie advice, right?   But do you want to know the real secret? None of us have the universal secret to happiness, and our own individual happiness is so personalized that, if we search too hard externally, we might be missing something fundamental from within.  That is why my work, my own journey, and the journey I challenge you to embark on, is so fascinating.  This challenge has only one prerequisite, and it’s that you believe in your heart of hearts that you deserve to be happy.   Unfortunately, we sometimes find ourselves on an unrelenting search inward that reinforces our unhappiness, or search outward, to find that we are looking in all the wrong places.  So how do we know what is real?  How do we trust the happiness we experience?

1.      Slow Down

We are marinated in a culture of speed.   We scramble through our lives instead of living in the present. A good example of this is a story I like to tell of an experience I had during the summer program I worked for called Upward Bound.

The staff would have exceptionally long days with constant stimulation from student interactions, writing reports, helping with homework, and doing socio-emotional mentoring with students.  Every day I felt like I was running a marathon, except every day I ran it like a sprint.  After the students went to bed, the staff would come together to debrief and talk about the day and it was, cathartic vent session for all of us.  Moreover, it was a time for us to slow down and be present, grateful, and connected to all the emotions that we experienced in that whirlwind of a month.

The point of this story is that we often forget to identify our emotions, appreciate our accomplishments, and connect with others in times of uncertainty and doubt if we don’t slow down.  The alternative is burning out from the sprint and those are the people who ultimately drop out of the marathon.

2. Try self-compassion (even if it’s disgustingly hard at first.)

I want to make sure I start by saying that practicing self-compassion is NOT the key to happiness, although the internet, your favorite podcast, and any motivational speaker might tell you otherwise.

Here is a dirty little secret: I don’t care who you are, we all have a critical voice, and all self-compassion does is cut through those voices to remind us that we are enough.  I won’t lie, this shit is so hard.  I tell my clients exactly that because it forces us to treat ourselves the way we would treat someone we love and that is ridiculous!   When I think of the people I love the most, all I want to do is shower them is praise, compliment their achievements, and be the compassionate voice that consoles the critical one.  Does that sound like any of you?  Good, because if you tried being a third as kind to yourself, this blog post would serve no purpose.

So, what does self-compassion look like?  For me, it’s letting myself have time to do nothing because the critical voice tells me that if I stay stagnant, I will fail; it means telling myself it’s okay to have an ice cream even though the critical alarms in my head are saying I’m over my “MyFitnessPal” calorie limit that I stopped using 3 years ago!  It is okay if the critical voice is still the loudest, because the more you practice, the more automatic the forgiving voice will be to soothe you and help move you forward.

A powerful quote I wish to share with you that changed my life is from the amazing Psychologist Kristen Neff who said, “I found in my research that the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent.  They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line.”  How true and how maddening is that?  Our natural defense against giving ourselves what we need to embrace our truest self is the fear of self-indulgence.  When I stumbled on that quote, I laughed but it could not be truer, so here is my last “tip”.

3. TREAT YO’SELF

For my Parks and Rec fans out there!  Now let me explain, this does not mean go out and buy yourself some fine leather goods whenever you feel that critical voice coming on.  I mean use self-compassion in a way that not only serves you, but is in service to others.  Happiness doesn’t need to be luxurious, selfish, or selfless for that matter.  Society gives us the impression that to be perceived as happy, we must let everyone else know, and TRUST ME, I have fallen into that trap plenty of times and I was never at my happiest.

I have clients that love to paint but have neglected their god given talent to focus on others, their work, or have lost the interest.  I have clients that love to swim, but don’t feel like finding the nearest pool or may not know if they have the time.  I have clients who love to read, but don’t allow themselves the time because their critical voice has demanded they spend all their extra time studying or training.  We actively push away happiness and call it sacrifice!!!  How can we be our best selves in all facets of our lives if we can’t give to ourselves and in return give to others?

In conclusion, I am not perfect. In fact, at times I can be the biggest hypocrite ever when it comes to this stuff.  Through it all, I self-monitor, I slow down, and I try my best to be as kind as possible to myself, but that is my journey. What’s yours?

Again, special thanks to Vanessa Moses for her super editing skills as well as Bryce Gauthier for his content contribution.

Contact Vanessa at mosesvj93@gmail.com or on her Upwork account if you are interested in her editing or writing.

 

 

Sexual Violence: Trauma Debunked

Hello Everyone!  I want to begin by saying how moved I was by the personal stories, reflections, and questions through my Facebook page in response to last week’s post on Co-Dependency.  As this site has grown, it has been fascinating to witness the amount of people who have connected, sometimes for the first time, with a part of themselves that deserves more, is ready for change, and has searched inward for a new beginning.

This week’s post could not have come a minute too soon.  As I write, Dr. Ford is telling her story in front of congress.  In my opinion, she has shown profound bravery, resilience, and has a firm grasp of not only this moment in American history, but the power that permeates through her message for women in the face of intense politicized scrutiny.  With that said, the purpose of this blog is not to dive into the political zeitgeist, but to instead draw attention to the myriad of reasons in which sexual trauma affects the brain, the body, and the future of those who experience it.  Below are real questions I’ve either heard, been asked, or have been told were asked to clients I’ve seen in the past.

Debunk #1”Why Didn’t you just run away?”  “Are you sure it happened?” “Were you drunk?” “What did you expect?”

I know most of you reading will find these as obvious examples of what not to ask a victim of sexual assault, but for those who may not know, any of these statements reinforce shame and guilt on behalf of the victim.   When trauma occurs, our brains natural response to an attack is to signal our defense responses.  An analogy everyone may understand is of the deer in the headlights.  In moments of extreme perceived distress, our mind and body work together in signaling the part of our brains that controls fear and we FREEZE.  What is important to understand is that this action is beyond conscious control and our ability to reason, make coherent judgments, and think logically is completely hijacked.  At the same time, the body is literally paralyzed by fear-unable to move, speak, or cry out for help.  To the reader, I would imagine there be some part of you that bets that if put in the same position, your body may fight or flee.  To that, I would say that in much of these cases, our body’s natural antennas do not let us down until the moment we are forced to freeze.  In reading and hearing sexual assault cases, there is often a use of force that is initially resisted.  Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, and adrenaline are flooding our systems in response to a foreign attack until there is no other option but to collapse into dissociative immobility.   To assume the victim is at fault is not only misinformed, but ignorant on the basis of all science and reason.  We respond with validation and a message of safety no matter the circumstances…Otherwise, we imprint a dangerous message that further traumatizes the victim.

Debunk #2 “How could he/she not remember when the attack happened?” 

This question brings me back to my favorite class in college “Brain and Behavior”.  Let me be a Psych nerd for a hot second.  As you sit here reading this article, you are using your prefrontal cortex to absorb what you have read so far.  You probably aren’t distracted unless you are reading while driving and to that I would say STOP READING AND FOCUS ON THE ROAD.  (Lessons learned from LA traffic).  Anyways, there is nothing getting in the way of you organizing your thoughts, compartmentalizing my writing vs. your other favorite blogger, and thinking about how to either tell me off at the end of the article or shower me with praise.  Unfortunately, with sexual assault cases, the victims prefrontal cortex has been effectively shut down while under attack and for a few hours after the attack.  This means that trauma survivors are unable to willfully make sense of what they are experiencing, and therefore less able to recall the experience in an orderly way.  You mix that with the heavy sirens of the amygdala (fear center of the brain), and what gets attention tends to be fragmentary sensations, not the many different elements of the unfolding assault.  Think the hand on the neck, the face of the perpetrator, the grip of the hand.  The encoded memories of the victims are not stories, but rather shards of encoded memories that paint an incomplete and frightening picture that often times go untold.  Therein lies the last debunk.

Debunk #3 “Why do victims wait so long to report?”  (Or why don’t they at all)

Shame, fear, self-blame, retaliation, not being believed.  These are just a few of the reasons why people choose not to report and I am barely scratching the surface.  Ultimately, this is why I scrapped everything I wanted to write about this week.  This is what matters.  The fact that there are men and women out there who remain in the shadows saddens me to no end.  Moreover, it is indicative of an even larger societal scar that we are just beginning to mend through the “Me Too” movement.  We change as a society when we strip ourselves of old narratives.  No more “boys will boys”, “she was asking for it”, or “It could have been worse.”  We are better than that.  We change as individuals when we commit to being an active bystander.  If we observe unacceptable or suspicious behavior, we report, we say something, or we do something.

Finally, to any readers of mine who are, or know anyone who is a victim that is still struggling, I want to end with this quote, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”  Your story is never weakness, but instead a truth wrapped in vulnerability that deserves to be heard.

We believe you

 

Sincerely,

Cody Gauthier, MSW

 

 

 

 

 

Co-dependency

dancersHello everyone.  Before getting to the main subject today, I want to make it clear that the metaphors used in this post are intentional for the purposes of cloaking the harsh realities of physical, psychological, and emotional abuse that are extremely prevalent in co-dependent relationships.  You will see from my writing  this week that I have taken on the voice of the empathizer.  With that said, there is just as much importance in uncovering the voice of the other side.  I use the word “other”  to vaguely describe what many who read this will assume to be the addict, the abuser, the narcissist, or the controller.  Those are just a few that may come up when asked to imagine what I will call, for the purposes of this post, the “leader in the dance”.  With that said, I hope you enjoy this piece and I urge my readers to comment below and share insight, feedback, and questions.  Thank you!

Think of the unhappiest couple you’ve ever met. (Hopefully you’re not a part of this duo.)  You may wonder why they are still together; we are all willing participants in our own partnerships right?  Well, it’s a little more nuanced than that.  The definition I’ve been taught for codependency is when two people with dysfunctional personality traits become worse together.  Personally, I think that definition is downright insulting and I hope you do too.  According to that definition we have to be dysfunctional to be codependent, when in reality, many of those unhappy couples you are thinking about are not the products of dysfunction, but instead are bound by one another’s needs.  If we need the other person to serve something inside of us that isn’t whole the thought of losing them is terrifying, no matter the cost of staying in that situation.  You can imagine where this gets messy.  Let me add one more wrinkle: what if one or both parties involved believe they deserve to be mistreated?

Now that I’ve given you plenty to think about, let’s talk about the ways in which my profession classifies and focuses on these relationships as we see them.  First, we wonder about the control, the nurturing habits, and the unconditional maintenance of relationships with those who may never reciprocate; think about the alcoholic husband and enabling wife (or vis versa).  We’ve all held our silent judgments about the one who bares the responsibility of the other’s dysfunction when, in all actuallity, both parties share the responsibility for the unhealthy behavior.  The metaphor I use most often with my clients is that of a well-choreographed dance.  Dance partners with oppositely matched needs participate in a dramatic, roller coaster-like relationship that continues despite one side’s unhappiness or desire for the dance to stop.  As the dance gets more dramatic, so does the rhythm in which the two dancers sync together, no matter the misery each new movement may cause, until finally, one dancer has been swept off the dance floor with nothing left to give to the dancer controlling the rhythm.  Unfortunately, this dance is often confusing because our worth and wellbeing has been shackled to the dance floor; without it, we risk falling flat, unsure of who we are if not dancing for someone else.  Herein lies the co-dependent’s biggest fear: “Who am I without the other?”

In my work, we find out what is so appealing about entering the dance without ever wondering why it began.  We also venture to wonder if this is the first, or one of many previous dance partners.  Most importantly, we prioritize safety, because after the pain is gone, whether it be physical or emotional, we are left with an individual who may not remember what life is like without adhering to, and being punished by, the demands of their dance partner.  

Before ending, I want to ask again if you’ve all thought of that unhappy couple?  If you have, reading this blog may have ignited a flame inside you to do everything you can to pull someone off the dance floor.  Maybe you’ve tried already but have been met with push back, disdain, and rage.  To that, I’d warn that the most insidious characteristics of the dance is the hypnotic way in which it deludes both dancers.  While trapped in the dance, both parties are terrified of anyone breaking their rhythm because their movements depend on one another to serve the need that they fail to receive from the outside world.  So, to all of you who are ready to “SAVE”, I would instead challenge you to listen.

Finally, when I first started working in the field of addiction, a field filled with dancers, my first lesson was to always leave the door open for those who are used to having it either shut in their face, or opened just to be dragged in; to be dependent is to be without choices.  Fortunately, there is a quote I always look to for guidance in my work and with those who may be reading and are stuck in the dance:

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”  -Sharon Salzberg

Thank you for reading and please make sure to like and share the Facebook page for this blog at: https://www.facebook.com/thehumanexperience2/

Sincerely,

Cody Gauthier

 

Editing for this blog post was done by Vanessa Moses with collaboration from Bryce Gauthier

You can contact Vanessa with any of your editing needs at mosesvj93@gmail.com or find her UpWork profile here: https://www.upwork.com/freelancers/~011e6d3a26b57a6a2b?viewMode=1

 

 

Love vs Shame

A common understanding among self aware therapists and mental health professionals alike is that we practice best what we most need to hear ourselves.  Isn’t it interesting that in this new life I’ve built, the function I most serve to others is to be their primary motivator; their guiding source of light.  That begs the question, where is the source of light that I keep for myself and do I allow others to help me navigate new situations, just as I would for them?  This is a question we ought to ask ourselves all the time because I know all of us have aspirations and goals, but do we push them further away from our consciousness, waiting for some divine intervention, or do we wait for rock bottom to conjure up some change?  

This is the question I bring up today, because we all have something we hold onto with intention, but without follow through.   For me, it is most certainly my physique and physical fitness. I’ve tried every new workout plan, weird fad diet, and “As Seen On TV” gimmick.   My parents who read this blog can confirm that I’ve tried the shake weight, the ab lounge, the waist trimmer, the perfect push up, the ab wheel, and the treadmill.  Hell, the only pieces of furniture in my living room right now are the chair I’m sitting in to write this blog and a workout ball!

Here’s the dirty little secret about my failed attempts at peak physical fitness: I had no idea what “peak physical fitness” even meant to me.  How could I motivate myself to strive for something that I hadn’t even conceptualized!? Well, lucky for you all, I have a theory. My theory is that the more vague and obscure my “attempts” at physical fitness, the easier it would be for me to abandon them at the first sign of difficulty.  In short, it was much easier to make excuses and, trust me, I had all of them: “ I work too much”, “I can’t work out at night”, “I don’t have money for healthy food” and, “I like happy hour too much.” The list of excuses goes on and on. My personal favorite was something I told myself every year in college: “I just need to blow out these last few weeks with friends and, as soon as I get home, I will start my cut and it will be super strict!”  

My phenomenal editor and brother will no doubt remember our conversations in the hot tub where I swore to him that I’d have abs by August 15th.  Do y’all want to place a bet if I ever got those abs? Therein lies my biggest issue; I had “goals”, but were they actually goals? Or were they just a vague culmination of the person I wanted to be.  If that were true, then we can throw out any hope of internal motivation. Moreover, the external motivators were shallow and had a lot more to do with what I didn’t like about myself rather than who I strove to become!  

So, now that I’ve accurately put myself through a 500 word self-examination, I must ask, what is your motivational blind spot? To get you started, here are some ways to do what I just painstakingly did in this tell-all confessional.

  1. The first step is NOT the hardest

Everyone who has courageously chosen to better themselves, in whatever form, will tell you that the first day feels FANTASTIC!  You’ll eat healthy and hit all your macros; you’ll read all the assigned chapters for your class; you’ll write the first chapter of your new book;  you’ll talk to one new person in the hall, at the bar, or in your class. In these moments we feel unstoppable, but contrary to popular belief, the first step is not the hardest.  It is the steps that follow that will show our true ability to succeed, to persevere, and to overcome… and slowly, the excuses will begin to disappear.

2. Monitor Shame Based Excuses

Excuses tell us a lot about what we fear the most in pursuing something new.  The college freshman with social anxiety who can’t bring herself to go to theater club because she has too much homework; the teenager who has yet to pass in any of her narrative essays because she wants them to be perfect; the failing math prodigy who has yet to reach out to his professor because he doesn’t know the office hours; all are excuses we might tell ourselves at any given time.  At face value, these three cases may sound familiar to real life scenarios in which you choose the excuse that best fits the escape plan. However, if we look behind these excuses, we see that that each diversion is an escape from something hidden a little deeper, in a place where shame hides. Of course, this doesn’t mean that our excuses aren’t true. I can practically feel some of my readers yelling at their computer screens due to my accusation that they gave up.  The thing about shame is that the cloak of protection we use to hide in is often filled with alternative truths that fit the perfect escape.

3. Be honest with yourself

At the end of the day, internal motivation is what drives long lasting and fulfilling change.  External motivation may help us reach our end goals faster, but we must ask ourselves, to what end do those goals serve us at our core?  Too often, we come to find they serve those of whom we measure ourselves so critically for, or against.

4. It is okay to be scared

Socrates once said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”  If we look back at my story, I’ve chosen for years to fight the old me; I’ve chosen to fight the middle schooler that got bullied;  I’ve chosen to fight the adolescent who compared himself to others; I’ve chosen to fight the college student who caved into the pressure of his peers to lift weights and to get girls through the use of harmful substances.  With each choice that I’ve made to “better myself”, it has come at the expense of waging war on the parts of me that were riddled in shame rather than building on the parts of me that are enveloped in love. This time, I’ve chosen love.  More importantly, I’ve chosen myself.

I want to end by wishing you all well on this journey.  My goal for this passage was to illuminate not only what I’ve seen from my clients, but what I’ve learned from my own experience.

Remember, change takes time, but don’t let fear keep you quiet.

Please like, comment, and follow my page at:

https://wordpress.com/view/thehumanexperienc.wordpress.com

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Thank you for all of your  support and I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Cody Gauthier

 

Editing for this blog post was done by Vanessa Moses with collaboration from Bryce Gauthier

You can contact Vanessa at mosesvj93@gmail.com or find her UpWork profile here: https://www.upwork.com/freelancers/~011e6d3a26b57a6a2b?viewMode=1

 

Imposter Syndrome

hollywood

Imposter Syndrome; have you ever heard of it?  I sure have. It has become the deceptive dark cloud that follows me through each new “presumed opportunity”.  This dark cloud is the dirty little secret that permeates through my life, and I imagine the lives of others, like the aftermath of a 13 year old taking an axe body spray shower.  This happens, because at our core, we’ve subconsciously decided that whatever skill, work ethic, natural gifts, or talents that the world has seen in us are too hard to accept, therefore they are inconceivable.  If imposter syndrome were an animal, it would have to be a Koala bear.  Find me one person who doesn’t see a picture of a Koala bear and immediately swoons over its cuddle potential, the cute way it eats leaves, and the grace and skill in which it climbs trees.  To the eye, isn’t that the life of the imposter?  The perception from the external world is almost exclusively grandiose, flattering, and presumptuous when in reality, much like the Koala, there are some gaping blind spots when assessing the true nature of the beast.  Sure, I may have gone too far with the animal comparison, but for those of you who don’t know, those things are super violent. Look it up!   The point remains, the life of an imposter is one of perceived external mastery and internal fraudulency.  Deep down we feel like complete frauds with  our accomplishments being the result of serendipitous luck.  So where do we go from here?  Well first, let me break down the phenomenon.  

To give my own personal definition, imposter syndrome reflects a chronic and self-inflicted belief of inadequacy and incompetence, despite clear evidence that indicates the complete opposite.  In short, we are the world’s successful hot messes.  So how do we do it?  Because right now, just from knowing some of my readers, there are a great deal of you who both identify with the message but also want to scream at me.  Here’s what I’ve heard before: “If only you knew how gifted you are”,  “How could you not feel confident, you always look like you’re in control”, and my favorite, “You will be fine, you always are.”  To those people, I sincerely thank you for your sparkling votes of confidence.  Unfortunately, like many others, we just don’t internalize the belief you so willingly provide us.  Is it to protect the part of us that is carefully awaiting the day our success crumbles?  Or could it be that there is a deeply rooted part of us that never believed in ourselves in the first place?  Let me paint you a brighter picture.  It could very well be that the true actualization of our achievements, skills, etc., would be a disservice to the gifts we hold, and therefore, we subconsciously hide this fact with chronic disillusionment.  We all know the person who takes compliments like they are being interrogated by the FBI.  Yeah, that person.  So, what do we tortured souls do with this information?  I imagine for many of you the reality of this has flooded your consciousness, previously hidden in the dark cloud that has been in your peripherals for years.   

My answer, as well as the answer of many of the clients that I have worked with, is self-compassion.  As a young therapist I witnessed case after case of individuals with supreme talent, intellect, and passion who’s self-worth was compromised, therefore suffocating their many gifts.  A quote that I hung rather intentionally in my office last year was by Christopher Germer who said, “Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.”  I’m serious when I say that people got PISSED at me when I dared to wonder what it would look like if they treated themselves with the same respect and compassion that they did their loved ones.  Those are the best moments because it means a breakthrough has been made.  Fortunately, we are keenly aware to the degree in which we devalue ourselves at least at a subconscious level, and if not, you may have a better sense now.  With that said, where are you on this spectrum?  More importantly, I’d be curious to see what it might look like if we all dug down a little deeper to accept the parts of ourselves that the world has validated, but for some reason,  we’ve turned a blind eye to.  I know for me it has been enlightening.  This doesn’t mean I don’t throw on the mask of the imposter.  I have to teach a college class next week and if y’all don’t think I am using every defense possible to undermine my potential, you are sadly mistaken.  However, I make room for the voice that whispers to me, “You deserve this and you will succeed.” That voice needs room too.  

 

As always, thank you so much for the support.  I have the unique pleasure of seeing this blog grow and I am heartened by your feedback, questions, and stories.  You may notice this piece is intentionally thought provoking, so I hope that y’all will keep sharing your experiences 🙂  Additionally, I am happy to announce that due to the growth of the blog, I’ve decided to create a Facebook page dedicated to adding material, updates, announcements, and answering questions and responding to your comments at https://www.facebook.com/thehumanexperience2/ You can also find the link to the Facebook page on the blog homepage, right under the title.

Finally, as a test to the spirit and life of this blog, I will be carefully assessing the comments and messages on my page to formulate next week’s material.  Essentially, the reader gets to decide what I dive into :).  

Thank you so much.  I appreciate each and every one of you for connecting with this material while also supporting a passion of mine. 

Sincerely,

Cody Gauthier

 

This blog was edited by Vanessa Moses, aspiring editor and freelancer. Please contact mosesvj93@gmail.com for any of your editing needs. Details will be individually discussed. You can also find her at  her Upwork.com account:

https://www.upwork.com/freelancers/~011e6d3a26b57a6a2b?viewMode=1

 

 

Coping with Life’s Transitions

Hello Everyone!

I would like to begin by tying some significance to this week’s title.  As Aldous Huxley once said, “”Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.”  With some endings, we tend to grieve what once was and what will never be again.  With others, we piece together a mental constellation of memories that propels us to the next part of our journey.  This past week both of these truths have flooded my senses with the force of a tsunami, and I am not alone.  On August 15th I will be moving to Long Beach, California to pursue my passion in therapy and teaching.  I consider myself remarkably lucky for the opportunity ahead of me, and yet the pangs of fear, doubt, and guilt crash mightily against my heart; but in these feelings I am not alone.  Those of you who follow this blog know my story: I have just completed the Upward Bound program which serves high school students in a college simulation setting.  The stories we share, the connections we make, and the impact that the community has on one another is both inspiring and transformative, especially for those who have bared the burden of their untold stories for far too long.  As staff, we leave this program just as changed as the students, for we aren’t immune to the manifestations of kindness, warmth, a sense of belonging, and the support given when connecting with the best parts of ourselves.  With that said, a certain question arises in times of heartbreaking transition. A question that I’ve seen asked, not only by myself, but also by  those who I have worked with:”what lives on and what is left behind?”  For the students who I just finished working with, this question is profound in a number of ways.

Through growth in any capacity, we are consciously and unconsciously shedding parts of ourselves that no longer require maintenance.  Maintenance is a gross word, right?  Yet, when I think of my insecurities, my doubts, my fears, and my internal struggles, my brain goes straight to auto mechanics.  Disclaimer: I have no background in auto mechanics so this analogy is going to be hot garbage.  Stay with me!  This could also just be a loose association stemming from my avoidance of my actual car maintenance, but I digress.  In my case, the reality of my time in this 5 week program being over could be equated to the most beautiful and scenic cross country road trip;  Each state carrying breathtaking sights, fantastic food, and unforgettable people.  Now, if you could, imagine right as the road trip ends the motor falls out, the transmission blows up, and the tires pop.  If anyone is wondering, those were the only car parts that I could think of.  Also, can transmissions blow up? Anyway, the importance of the analogy derives from the tragedy of all that was “lost”.  Because isn’t that where our brains automatically go?  We can’t help but wonder if an experience so pure and genuine could ever be recaptured in the “real world.” 

Now, I want to make sure before moving on that this post is seen as generalizable rather than a swan song of my summer and the upcoming life transition that awaits me.  Which brings me to the question posed earlier in this post: “what lives on and what is left behind?”  With every experience that changes us we are left with a decision.  If the experience is transformatively bad (i.e. trauma, grief, loss), we move forward undoubtedly changed.  In the examples I gave above the common thread happens to be a loss of control.  When we lose control it’s difficult to re-establish a sense of equilibrium, which often results with an internal conflict that becomes externally frozen.  We freeze.  How could you ask me to look forward if I’m stuck reliving, replaying, and often times re-narrating the past?  Moreover, how is it possible to move on when I am the one to blame, to bare the load, to suffer?  These aren’t my words but the words of the wounded who have been forever changed, and consequently, temporarily frozen.  For the purposes of this blog let’s not focus on levels of severity, but rather the encompassing internal conflict.  In the case of my Upward Bound students, the perceived loss is of unconditional support and connection without fear of judgment, and like any other life-transitional loss, the immediate outlook becomes terrifying, so we freeze.  People are going to wonder what I mean by “freezing”.  Freezing could mean consciously avoiding those who you connect with the most for fear that they may drift away; Freezing means abandoning the values that are most true to your REAL SELF; Freezing means scooping up the beliefs of those who dehumanize you rather than holding tight the beliefs of those who make you feel whole.  We freeze because testing the inherent goodness of ourselves and others in a world that has exclusively demonstrated badness is horrifying.  

This all begs the question one last time: “what lives on and what is left behind?”  Personally, I left behind the notion that five weeks wasn’t long enough to restore a sense of self compassion that I had been neglecting.  I left behind the constant inner voice that minimizes my role as a mentor and as a healer.  Finally, I left behind the notion that this move, this new life, and this new job was taken on by an imposter.  What lives on is the many stories, connections, and experiences that continue to shape my personal and professional identity.  For those wondering if it was easy for me to answer this question, IT WAS NOT.  I froze, I doubted the change I had experienced, and I grieved the loss of something special.  Fortunately, I’ve made it through and you will too. 

I want to end the way I began, “Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.”  So what will you do?

 

To my readers who are used to a more general topic, I apologize.  I hope that some of the topics and experiences covered in this post can be translated appropriately, as that was my intention.  As this blog progresses, there may be moments of personal reflection tied in with the topic as you’ve seen today.  Rather than that be a deterrent, I hope it creates room for conversation as well as adds to the genuine nature in which this blog is created.  Thank you and I look forward to your responses, feedback, and stories.

Adolescence: Sifting through the Mud

Hello Again!  As you can see from the title above, this week’s topic doesn’t cut any corners in the intentionality in which it paints a rather dirty picture of the storm and stress of early adolescence, or “tweening”.  Also, for any of you wondering about the featured image, this is Cody at the prime age of 15.  Bald and beautiful on the outside and a shit storm on the inside.  Good sense of fashion though right?

  Julia Remillard said it best when she lamented that, “Middle school is exactly what it sounds like. A mixed-up mess of nothing, and yet everything at the same time.”  This quote encapsulates an experience that most people who step in my office fail to explain with any depth or fondness. So naturally I wondered, how could it be that so many people actively suppress a time in which there was such an abundance of physiological, psychological, and life transitional changes?  And let me be clear, if tweening were an experience, it would be like riding on the most dilapidated, duct taped, motion sickness inducing ride at the 4th of July fair where the only guidance given is from the carny smoking the cigarette in the corner saying, “it’s fine, only 5 people puked today.” Now, if we pulled that analogy back even further, do people ever really want to ride that terrible carnival ride to begin with?  I have a feeling most people would say no. However, starting around age 11, there are fundamental shifts in our intellectual development that signal the desire to learn through action, adventure, and exploration. The interesting piece to this shift is that at this age, a child also gains the power of perception through lived experience and introspection. Unfortunately, if we recall my last passage, introspection can be dangerous if the conditioned impressions we make of ourselves in the face of new experiences are self-damaging.   

So where does this get complicated?   According to developmental psychologists, identity is built through exploration and experimentation with various roles and experiences.  How many of you remember the role you played in your emerging middle school friend group? I wonder this aloud because often times that role has been molded by the perceptions of others rather than our own.  Now, if this were true, is there any room to form our own sense of self? Additionally, how many parents wonder what the hell is going on with their tween aged daughter who 3 months ago was enjoying the company of a diverse friend group and has now exiled herself to a clique that communicates much like the districts in the Hunger Games?   In this vulnerable time, we find ourselves exploring within the confines of perceived security. Security from the bullies, who at age 12, have laser sharp senses and have learned to sniff out insecurities like drug dogs. Security from old trends, styles, and perhaps even people. The insidious, yet fluid nature of middle school leaves no room for stragglers.  Social media has upped the ante to the point where if you don’t have snapchat, twitter, and instagram, you might as well be cast off to the island of misfit toys. Even if you’re part of the action, instagram and snapchat in middle school has become a universally recognized space race where the finish line is laced with the insecurities of puberty, comparison, and the devaluing of oneself and others.  I should clarify, I’m not dooming the formation of authentic identity formation in the 21st century just yet; however, I’ve taken the stance that the influence of technology has stunted and perhaps changed the course of traditional developmental milestone achievement. So, what do we do?  

The first bit of insight that I’ve garnered from my clients is that much of the pain caused by comparison and envy was suffered in their imagination, rather than reality.  Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and middle school is like strapping on a pair of drunk goggles. With that said, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “I just feel like my friend group is closer with one another than me.”  What I often wonder in response is how that feeling has dictated the way you act around that friend group. I say this because we are all allowed to have insecurities. Remember, it is the essence of tweenhood and it does not go away!  With that said, these insecurities shield us from the objective truth EVEN IF IT FITS OUR HYPOTHESIS! We have created a lose/lose situation that reinforces our deepest fears of isolation and loneliness. My answer to this is to think objectively because developmental karma evens out physiologically where concrete reasoning is fully formed and perspective taking can be analyzed appropriately.  Essentially, our brains form the buffer to clap back at the world’s worries! USE IT. By the way, I’m not saying it’s easy and depending on your social class, ethnicity, race, and other intersections of lived experience, objective reasoning and perspective taking may seem impossible. Which brings me to my next point, YOU ARE NOT ALONE (cue the eye roll). I’ve had clients tell me that there could be no way anyone understands what they’re going through.  My response to that almost without fail is, “your story may be different, and you deserve to tell it, but can the feelings be the same?” We are hardwired to claim ownership of our story even if it is marred in shame, guilt, or pain. Unfortunately, when we feel misunderstood, ostracized, or hurt, we wrap ourselves into a straight jacket and swallow the key for fear that setting us free would expose a truth that no other soul could bare.

Finally, I have a feeling I will get responses to this post from adolescents saying, “I am an open book!  Anyone can know my story! I don’t care who hears!” To that, I would say FINALLY! Adolescence, as mentioned before, is a time of developing a sense of independence from your family.  The analogy I use with my clients is like being stuck face first in the mud. The enhanced physiological and psychological need for human connection is both exhilarating and terrifying.  However, if your threshold for devaluation has been set low from a young age, there is much less need for self discretion because you’ve been burned before. So, as the analogy stands, middle school provides a space to pick yourself up and fling mud in a bunch of different directions with the hope that it sticks.  The issue with mud slinging is that not everyone is prepared to get hit. To those people who yearn for their story to be heard, I wonder “how would you know if the mud stuck?” Additionally, “who deserves it?” Because mud can be cleaned off in time if you have the right people standing by you.

In my next post, I hope to continue this conversation on identity through interpretations and comments submitted by you, the readers.  If you’ve noticed, I use a lot of analogies, metaphors, and wordplay in my work with clients. I do this partly because my work is primarily with children, adolescents, and young adults.  I’ve also found that in therapy, the “insight” that is most often found is through the interpretations made on the clients end rather than our own. With that said, the trust I have in those that I work with to self-reflect goes a long way in the therapeutic alliance and I’ve been rewarded countless times by their self-determination.   Lastly, I truly believe these experiences are normative rather than “distortions in cognition”. We live with insecurities at all developmental levels and I wouldn’t be surprised if readers of all ages could identify with these feelings. I know I have.

Please, share your thoughts, experiences, and feedback with me on any of my social media platforms (or this page) and thank you again for the support. 
Sincerely,

Cody Gauthier, MSW