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: 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: 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/

Tuesday Tip: The Importance of Distinguishing Between Shame and Guilt.

There are few words and feelings that make such a profound difference as the difference between these two five-letter words: Shame and Guilt. While you might think they are synonyms, you will be surprised to know that psychologically speaking, they are more distinct than you might think and understanding their differences can be life altering.

So, what’s the difference? According to renowned researcher/storyteller, Brené Brown, PhD, LCSW, the difference is huge. Brown has been researching shame for over ten years and her TED talks have garnered over 10 million views. She defines shame as the “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” Shame focuses on yourself: “I am a bad person… I am stupid…I am a failure.”

She defines guilt on the other hand as “holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.” She view guilt as adaptive and helpful and focuses instead on the behavior: “This behavior is bad…that was a really stupid thing to do…that outcome was a failure.”

According to Brown, “Shame [is] highly correlated with addiction, depression, eating disorders, violence, bullying and aggression. Guilt? Inversely correlated with those.” What does that mean? That means the ability to change the way in which you talk to yourself (guilt vs. shame) or your internal dialogue can dramatically change the outcome.

Guilt serves as a motivating factor to change whereas shame becomes the catalyst to the downward spiral of self loathing that has been correlated with depression and addiction. For example, I could do really poorly on a test and say to myself: “Dang it. That was a mistake. I should have studied differently.” Now, I still feel bad and the event didn’t change-I still did poorly, but I am motivated to fix that mistake.

Check out the difference with shame: “Dang it. I am such a loser. I am so stupid. I don’t know why I bothered to think that I would ever be good at taking a test.” Shame cuts at your self identity and does not inspire you to move forward but rather stay in a downward spiral of negative thoughts.
The ability to change the self-talk — and believe it — can dramatically change the outcome.

So, today’s Tuesday Tip: examine your internal dialogue. Is it more inline with shame or guilt? When you or someone you love make a mistake, allow your feelings of guilt to inspire a course correction. As I lovingly repeat to my kids on a daily basis: “Peirce’s make mistakes and Peirce’s fix mistakes.” They might have the same number of letters but feeling shame and guilt are extremely different and distinguishing between them is an absolute game changer.

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.

Balance Is Not Something You Just Find, But Something You Can Create.

Whether you are seeking small changes or searching for big miracles, the proven tips and strategies you find here can help you improve the way you think and feel about yourself and help create the quality relationships that we all want and need.

“Tuesday Tips” are designed to be practical, shareable tips with explanations to how they can impact and improve your emotional health and relationships.

Truth or Myth? These posts shared on Thursdays are designed to provide practical points to ponder and help provide psychoeducation to truths and myths about all aspects of emotional health.

Do you have a question that you would like answered by a licensed marriage and family therapist? Feel free to contact me with your question. Your question may provide the answers that will benefit others as well and all responses will be posted without any identifying information. Answers to questions asked can be found here.

Regardless of where you are in your personal journey, welcome! I hope that the practical, proven tips, strategies and answers you find here will help you on your journey to create the balance we all need. Practically speaking, “What you do today can improve all of your tomorrows.” (Ralph Marston)

-Brita