Truth or Myth: In Order To Be Vulnerable, You Need To Be Courageous

Truth! Society often portrays being vulnerable as the opposite of courage—that if you are vulnerable that you are weak. You need to be invincible and so we seek to try and control as much of the outcomes that we can. However, the truth is that courage and vulnerability work hand in hand and it takes vulnerability to be courageous. The truth is that it takes courage to be the first to say that you are sorry and that takes being vulnerable. It takes courage to bring a child in this world and that means being vulnerable realizing you don’t know how to be a parent. It takes courage to put yourself out there in the dating world and risk rejection and that requires being vulnerable.

Brene Brown, the vulnerability guru, emphasizes this truth about courage and vulnerability describing a visit to Fort Bragg (the largest military base in the world—and where my brother-in-law and his family will be stationed in a few months):

“I was recently at Fort Bragg speaking to soldiers and joint special operations. It’s a hard group to talk about vulnerability with, because in a combat situation vulnerability equals death, and their job is to minimize vulnerability. So I asked them to come up with an example of courage that they’ve witnessed that wasn’t completely defined by a willingness to be vulnerable, a willingness to engage in risk, uncertainty, and emotional exposure. And no one could come up with an example.”

So take the leap of faith and have the courage it takes to be vulnerable. Vulnerability holds a lot of power. When you risk and reach out, that is where the magic happens, where connections are made and strengthened. As Brene Brown says: “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage. Tell me how vulnerable someone is willing to be, and I’ll tell you how brave they’re willing to be.” Be Brave!

Truth or Myth?: Forgiveness means that you forget. Myth! {Find out how knowing the truth about forgiveness can help you be more successful.}

Forgiveness is not easy. However, there are a few key myths that make it so forgiveness is even harder than it needs to be. One of the most perpetuated myths is that “You Forgive and You Forget.” Forgiveness does not mean amnesia. We are not meant to have a “Skip That Chapter” mindset in order to forgive. In fact, if you forget there were atrocities, we are likely to repeat those atrocities and if we don’t deal with our past adequately, it will return to haunt us. From an evolutionary standpoint, our brains are wired to remember negative events so that we don’t get bitten by the saber tooth tiger twice.

Forgiveness is not forgetting or pretending that things happened differently than they did. Forgiveness is knowing and believing that chapters in a book are simply that- chapters and not the end. It is the ability to know that you have the power to move forward and write the next chapter without holding onto the anger and the hurt. Forgiveness is the way for you to have a path to move forward to write your story. It does not mean that restitution or justice should not be required or that in order to completely forgive that they need to be a part of your life. Clear boundaries are an actually an essential part of the forgiveness process.

My favorite way to understand forgiveness is a quote by Paul Coleman, a licensed therapist and contributing author to the book, “Exploring Forgiveness”:

“When you forgive, you do not forget the season of cold completely, but neither do you shiver in its memory.”

Forgiveness does not mean that we need to forget but through the process of forgiveness the emotions and feelings–that at the time were so intense and had the power if left there to fester to write a different ending for ourselves– those feelings will dwindle and diminish. Forgiveness does not mean that anger or hurt vanishes immediately but it will wither in time. Despite genuine efforts to forgive, some remnants of the old hurt may remain but they will remind us of that cold season and how far we now have come and how those feelings do not have the power to continue to be the focus of our lives and write our stories. There is no greater gift that you can give to yourself than forgiveness which allows you to flip the page and begin again.

Truth or Myth: Feeling Depressed and Suffering from Depression Are The Same. Myth! {Four Ways Suffering From Depression Differs}

Myth! Feeling depressed and suffering from depression are two very different things. So what is the difference? For the sake of being able to differentiate the two distinct emotions, I am going to substitute the word sadness for feeling depressed. Here are four ways to be able to distinguish whether or not what you are feeling is sadness or if you are suffering from depression.

How Does Sadness Differ From Depression?

One: Sadness is a normal emotion that EVERYONE will experience at some point in their life. Whether it is because of a friend moving away, or the end of a relationship, the death of a loved one, snowfall in May, or the last cookie being eaten, sadness is usually triggered by a specific situation, person or event. However, with depression, no such trigger is needed. A person suffering from depression feels sad or hopeless about everything. This feeling of sadness becomes so pervasive that suffering from depression causes you to lose the ability to experience pleasure or joy.

Two: Sadness lasts for a temporary time–you might feel down for a few days about the event or situation, but you are still able to enjoy simple things- the smile of your grandchild, your favorite tv show, or your favorite food. With depression, you no longer enjoy activities that you may have once enjoyed. Clients have best described this feeling as “numbness”.

Three: When you experience sadness, you may slightly change up how much you sleep–either more or less–but you are able to sleep as you usually would. Your desire to eat or motivation to accomplish things diminished slightly but you still have an appetite and are able to accomplish some things during your day. When you experience depression, your sleeping and eating patterns are completely disrupted. You have a lack of energy, an overall feeling of fatigue with a diminished capacity to focus and make decisions.

Four: One of the most distinguishing things from feelings of sadness to suffering from depression is your thoughts. With sadness, you might feel remorse or regret for something you said or did, but there is no permanence. Those who are suffering from depression often experience an intense sense of worthlessness and self-directed negative thought patterns. Thoughts of self-harm or suicidal thoughts are not experienced by those feeling sadness but can be pervasive when suffering from depression.

Whether or not you are experiencing sadness, or suffering from depression, there is hope. Although we all experience moments of sadness and depressing events will happen in this life, these feelings were not meant to be permanent. If you can no longer feel joy in your life or have thoughts of self harm or ending your life as an escape from this unending pain, know that there is hope and help. No matter how low you may feel now, there is a way to enjoy life again. This is a road to recovery that is not walked alone. Seek out a trained professional and/or call and speak with a clinically trained professional at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for free 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 or text “talk” to 741-741.

Truth or Myth? Curiosity May Kill The Cat, But It Can Save Your Relationship. Truth!

The truth is that our brains are wired to crave new things. Our brains love to learn new things and you can see from a survivalist standpoint why our brains would want to notice and be alerted to new things and thus survive any new threat or overcome any new obstacle. However, unlike the curiosity that kills the cat, maintaining or creating this curiosity in your relationship can actually can save it.

There are two ways that curiosity can save your marriage. For one, curiosity is the spark that can ignite your brain to pay more attention. Remember when you first met your spouse? How you wanted to know everything about them? Psychologist Dorothy Tennov back in the 1970s first coined the phrase limerance which refers to the sometimes intense state of mind at the beginning of a relationship–where you want to know everything about that person and want them to reciprocate the same desire.
Since then, there have been several studies on the effects of “falling in love” and the brain. Researchers have found that increased levels of dopamine are released in your brain which are responsible for the feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Love is like an addictive drug. When the novelty of a new relationship wears off as your brain chemistry changes (usually around 12-18 months), you can jump start your desire to continue to learn more about your spouse by simply staying curious. What is their favorite part of the day? What is something they have always wanted to do but never done before? How do they feel loved? What is something that makes them feel successful? Curiosity is what can keep your desire to increase your connection with your spouse even after the novelty wears off.

The second way curiosity can save your relationship is by being curious together. Recent research by Dr. Arthur Aron, a professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and one of the top researchers on romantic love, indicates that couples can recharge their romantic chemistry by intentionally opting for novelty in something new they do together. In these studies, couples who engaged in fresh activities gave their relationship significantly better satisfaction ratings afterward.

The theory is that dopamine and norepinephrine highs are generated both by novel activities and romantic love. To some degree, your brain doesn’t care whether the source of the high is from your partner or the things you do together. When you do something new, interesting or exciting together, some of the novelty chemistry positively impacts your relationship.

So, go on a new adventure- learn a new skill you have never learned before (snowboarding, horseback riding, deep sea diving, kayaking etc), go to a new picnic spot, take up a new hobby together, move the furniture, try a new restaurant. Do something novel together and see how being curious about each other and new activities can excite and save your relationship and increase your connection. Yes, novelty by design wears off, but curiosity never has to.

Truth or Myth: Any Therapist Will Be Able to Help You Where You Need To Go

Myth! The truth is that just like in any profession, there are those that are good at their jobs and there are those that are not. Sadly, therapists are no different and they are not created the same. Just as you wouldn’t want to take your car to just any mechanic but would search out for one that was qualified and able to address the needs of your car, you are going to want to invest in finding a therapist is qualified and will be able to address your needs or the needs (or the needs of a loved one) as well. It is a very difficult road to come to the decision to seek out a therapist and often because it is a hard decision, many enter the search to find a therapist under duress and will often see the first person they can get into. When you are at the crossroads of looking for a therapist, it is important to know that finding the right therapist is essential in order to get the outcome that you are looking for. Here are five tips to finding the right therapist for you.

https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/02/01/how-to-find-a-good-therapist-five-tips-to-finding-the-right-therapist-for-you/

Truth or Myth: Grief is Something That You Should Get Over. {Myth! 5 Truths To Help Understand and Cope With Grief}

Believe it or not, the first class I ever took regarding grief was in High School with Father Tom. I attended a catholic high school in California and it was in that class on “Death and Dying” that I was first introduced to the 5 steps of bereavement by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Although I do find value in her work and stages of grief: {denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance}, I also feel that it has assisted in portraying a false notion that grief is something that we are to get over. Truthfully, those who follow her theory will be the first to tell you that you do not go through these stages chronologically and each situation is unique. However, it can still perpetuate the idea that grief is something that you are supposed to get through or that there is an end.

In fact, the question I was often asked by clients was “When am I going to get over this?” or “When am I going to move on?” There are five truths about grief that will help with understanding the role and purpose of grief.

One: Grief is not something that you can fix or control. In fact grief expert, Julia Samuel, who recently wrote a book entitled, “Grief Works”, describes grief as chaotic, unpredictable and messy and is a process that you are not in charge of but works beneath the surface. Grief is personal and there is not one way to grieve. The key according to Samuel is to find ways to express your grief so that it doesn’t get stuck inside you–to reach out for comfort and support from loved ones, find a word or a way to express those feelings or to journal about your feelings so that they do not remain so overwhelming.

Two: It is essential to acknowledge painful feelings. What you are feeling is normal and if you attempt to shutdown pain or numb painful feelings, you also shutdown or numb happy or joyful feelings. Do not avoid the pain. In fact many often turn to alcohol or to work as a way to avoid pain and to try to numb the painful feelings. Grief and pain come and go in cycles and they have a role. Finding connection to loved ones that can support your grief and pain allows the pain to diminish and for you to heal.

Three: There is meaning in pain and it isn’t something that you should or need to avoid. Pain connects you to the person who is no longer there. When a loved one who has made an imprint in your life is no longer there, you can expect that there will be a void. This void is a reminder of the love that you shared which is not meant to be replaced.

It is important to note that there can be a tendency to equivocate pain with a way to connect to the person who is gone and you can feel like you are abandoning them if you stop feeling the pain. Many have felt guilty if they laugh, find enjoyment in life, forget an anniversary or special date. It is important to know that you can allow both and to give yourself permission to seek comfort in your life.

Four: Grief will always be painful and you will always miss them. One of my favorite analogies that has been pretty useful at explaining grief was told by the psychologist of Lauren Herschel and is known as the ball and the box. Grief is compared to a large ball that is placed in a box with a pain button. The ball is so large that at first you can’t move the box without hitting the button. It moves around in the box and consequently hits the pain button over and over. You can’t control it- it just keeps hurting and seems relentless. Overtime, the ball shrinks, and you can start moving the box without hitting the button. The ball still hits the button sometimes, but less than it used to. However, when the ball does hit the pain button, it hurts just as much. Although you can function better day to day, the ball will hit that pain button randomly when you least expect it. For most people the ball never goes away fully but the ball keeps getting smaller.

Five: Research shows that it is not the circumstances of the grief that predicts the positive or negative outcome but it is the support that the person receives at the time. So, if you are in the midst of grief and pain, reach out and connect where you can. Professor Brene Brown’s mother gave some of the best advice when it came to pain: “My mom taught us to never look away from people’s pain. Don’t look away. Don’t look down. Don’t pretend not to see hurt. Look people in the eye. Even when pain is overwhelming. And, when you’re in pain, find the people who can look you in the eye. We need to know that we are not alone–especially when we are hurting.”

Truth or Myth: Feeling Anxiety Can Be a Good Thing

Truth! Anxiety is a normal and healthy function. In fact, you couldn’t subsist without it. Evolutionarily speaking, it was essential for our brains to be able to be observant in order to survive. Anxiety is a sign you are aware of your surroundings and that you are mindful of growing opportunities and that you are frightened of things that are in fact scary (like that saber tooth tiger or starting at a new school/job)! There are several functions that are necessary for us to survive that stem from feeling anxiety.

For one, feeling anxiety or stress increases cortisol and adrenaline levels in the body, greatly improving the fight or flight reaction. Your heart beats faster, your breaths per minute increase, you become more aware of your surroundings and your body is ready to fight or run to protect itself. Almost like your “spidy-sense” is triggered and your body is set to gear up to deal with and handle the situation at hand.

This adrenaline can improve both attention and your ability to focus. Think of a time when something big was on the line. Perhaps it was a speech you had to give, a three point shot at the buzzer to win the game—all create certain amounts of stress and anxiety.And while many of these situations are filled with pressure, the increased anxiety makes you focus that much more. In all of these instances, if your body wasn’t producing extra levels of adrenaline and cortisol, you wouldn’t be as ready to make that game winning shot.

The stress response that is triggered by anxiety is also designed to help us react when something potentially threatening happens, to help us deal with it and learn from it. Dr. Daniela Kaufer, an associate professor at UC Berkley, studies the biology of stress–examining at the molecular level how the brain responds to anxiety and traumatic events. Her research found that the part of your brain involved in the stress response (called the hippocampus) will stimulate stem cells which go on to form neurons or brain cells. Hence, anxiety can be a good thing as it can help you focus more and be able to learn more!

Having an understanding of how anxiety can be a useful tool in helping you be observant (ability to focus more), and recognize areas of growth (example: where you realize that you should focus more on your 3 point shot) and give you the adrenaline or energy necessary to deal with situations (example: saving the 2 year old from falling off the chair) can help you realize that anxiety can be an asset. Feeling anxiety really isn’t a bad thing. It is a normal and necessary feeling that you can make work for you rather than against you. How do you do this? When you recognize feeling anxious (everyone is unique in how they feel anxiety in their body but everyone feels it) mentally listen to the message that it is giving you and then in your mind, assign the anxiety a task. For example, you recognize you are breathing faster while preparing to be interviewed for a job. Take a deep breath and mentally give yourself a task to remember the interviewers name or to remember answers to questions you have already prepared and your brain will be stimulated to complete that task. Anxiety can really be an asset and not just for the caveman.

Truth or Myth: Your Thoughts Are NOT Your Identity

Truth! You are NOT your thoughts. In fact, according to the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California, the average person has about 48.6 thoughts per minute. That adds up to nearly 70,000 thoughts per day. Researchers estimate that 60-80% of those thoughts are negative! Dr. Raj Raghunathan, of the University of Texas recently conducted an experiment asking students in the business school to register their thoughts for 2 weeks and then categorized them. He found that 70% of those student’s thoughts were negative.
Negative thoughts do NOT define who we are. It has absolutely nothing to do with our character and who we are as a person. You cannot control if a bird lands on your head or every thought that comes in your head but you can prevent birds from making a nest and you can control what thoughts you allow to stay.

Looking to reduce the negative thoughts in your head?

Stay tuned for 5 proven strategies to combat negative thoughts coming next week. For recurrent negative thoughts, you can also check out:
https://practicallyspeakingwithbrita.com/2019/02/06/5-simple-steps-to-change-negative-thinking/

Truth or Myth?: Asking someone if they are thinking about suicide will increase the likelihood of them committing suicide.

Myth! Research has actually shown that asking about suicidal thoughts or feelings will NOT push someone into engaging in self harm or committing suicide. In fact, the findings suggest that acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation. Asking about thoughts of suicide is in fact one of the number one things you can do to help and assist anyone who may have suicidal ideation.

So, what do you say if you are concerned about someone who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts? Reach out and be direct. My “go-to” question is:

“Hey. You seem like you have been {quiet, tired, depressed, sad, not yourself etc} and I {love you, care for you, am concerned}. Have you thought about hurting yourself?”

Do not worry that you need to provide all the answers if they do have thoughts about committing suicide. They don’t expect you to have all the answers. They just need you to care enough to ask the question and get them to someone who can help. That is the easiest of the steps because all it requires is a phone.

Keep in mind that you can always call the National Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (or text “TALK” to 741741). {They both go to the same source.} This number is not just for the person who is currently feeling suicidal but also for anyone who is looking for assistance or advice on handling a situation where someone they know might be suicidal. You will be talking with a licensed mental health professional who will do a safety assessment to determine if you are calling for yourself or for someone that you are worried about; if you are in need of emotional support or if you are in crisis. They will talk with you and develop a safety plan and future resources where needed. You can call any day at anytime- 24/7.

So, don’t be afraid to reach out, acknowledge and discuss suicide if you are concerned about someone. There is hope and help and it all starts with asking the question–Just Ask!

Truth or Myth: We are Born to Need Each Other

Truth! One of my husband’s favorite songs is “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. In case you were curious or just wanted to listen to that song again, I included a clip below. {You’re welcome. ;)} Unfortunately, while my husband might love this song, the message of this song can perpetuate this false notion that we are meant to be ‘islands’ in a relationship and that being self-sufficient is what makes your relationships stronger. However, researchers will tell you that, in fact, close connections make us stronger and that we are born to need each other.

Dr. Susan Johnson, developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and 2016 Psychologist of the year noted that, “The human brain is wired for close connection with a few irreplaceable others. Accepting your need for this special kind of emotional connection is not a sign of weakness, but maturity and strength.” She emphasizes that self-sufficiency is just another word for loneliness and that we all long for a safe haven in our relationships.Strength, she argues, comes from close connections and we are born to need each other.


The need we have as children to be able to call to a special loved one and know that this person will respond with reassurance and comfort never goes away.

Connections in life are critical and are the source of both pain and joy. Dr. Naomi Eisenberger, a psychologist at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found during her brain imaging studies that rejection and exclusion trigger the same circuits in the same part of the brain (the anterior cingulate) as physical pain. In fact, this part of the brain turns on anytime we are emotionally separated from those around us. On the other hand, close connections with others turn on reward centers in the brain and flood us with calm and happiness chemicals like dopamine and turn off stress hormones like cortisol. We have an innate need to connect. It is a basic primary need– like oxygen and water. We truly are born to need each other– so do not be afraid or feel ashamed of this need for connection. No man is an island–not even Kenny Rogers.