We have all been there. Things could be going great, we feel that we have it figured out, and we have it all together. Then suddenly something happens. It could be an argument with a significant other, it could be criticism from a boss, it be feeling blown off by a friend, or we may not even know the origin. But there is a shift. Suddenly, we are hit with this overwhelming, overpowering feeling of “Wow, I really suck”.

In an ideal world, we would run to our therapist’s office and talk it through. She would ask us what triggered this feeling. She would ask us to challenge our thought process. We would probably leave feeling somewhat better. But unfortunately that is often not an option. Usually, we have to stick it out until our next appointment, which usually means suffering with this feeling on our own, and if we remember, telling her about it after the fact.

Hopefully, these tips can serve almost as a rescue remedy for those in between therapy times that we feel we really just… simply put… suck.

  1. You have felt that you suck before, and it has passed.

This is simple, but profound. Right now you may feel that your world is crumbling down. But think back. You have felt this way before, and you have moved past it and gotten back to the point of feeling that you have it all under control. This is temporary. Think of it like waves that ebb and flow. Sometimes they will be rough, sometimes they will be calm, but it is not permanent. This is not just a nice sentiment, but it is factually based as history has shown that these feelings do pass.

  1. Take a blank piece of paper and fold it in half horizontally.

On the first half write “What I feel happened,” on the second half write “What actually happened.” In the first column you can write whatever you want. But in the second column, I want you to write only exactly what had happened, as if you were a video recorder recording the incident at face value. Often our interpretation of events are not entirely accurate. The problem with this is that our entire day could be ruined based simply on an interpretation, and not actual fact. An example of this exercise could look like this:

Points to Remember When you Feel that You Suck

While this may not help us  immediately, if we get into the habit of documenting these incidences we can see how much time we waste on interpretations. Luckily, with practice, we can learn to adjust our interpretations of events. 

  1. Remember that it is ok to not be ok sometimes.

Again, simple, yet profound. Read that again and really let it sink in. It is ok to not be ok sometimes. How often do we feel like crap and then spiral into a thought s-storm about why we feel like crap? Will I always feel like crap? How will I live if this feeling never goes away? What if it gets worse? These questions can become meaningless if we can simply accept and internalize that it is ok to not be ok sometimes.  And then, refer back to point 1 and remember that this feeling will pass.

  1. Lastly, make a concerted effort to do something kind for yourself.

When you are thinking you suck, it is very easy to treat yourself badly. But make a concerted effort to treat yourself the way you would a dear friend. If she came to you and told you how horrible she felt about herself you certainly would not say “wow, yeah, you really do suck”. You would try to do something nice for her to brighten her day. Please please, even if it feels unnatural, do the same for yourself. Maybe indulge in a piece of chocolate, go get a massage, or even give yourself some time to guiltlessly binge watch a few episodes of your favorite show. Whatever it is that makes you happy. Just try to be kind to yourself.

As I was writing this piece, the old Hair Club for Men commercial kept going through my head… “I am not only the president, but I am also a client”. What I mean is, I don’t only help others through these times of sucking, but I have also been there myself. I know how hard it can be, and I know how sometimes it feels that nothing can help, and self pity seems like the best option. But, these points are designed to be utilized even when your emotional mind is telling you that nothing can help. I challenge you to challenge the emotional mind, and give this a try.

What would you advise your dear friend to do?

As a therapist I have sat face to face with people during some of the darkest and most painful moments of their lives. When I was just starting out, I have to be honest, grief used to make me uncomfortable. I always wondered what can I possibly say that could help? What can I do to lessen the pain? To put it bluntly, I felt completely and utterly inadequate.

As time went on, and I unfortunately sat with more and more people, I came to realize that it is absolutely true. There is nothing I can say or do to make it better. I am completely inadequate when someone is stuck in the thoroughs of pain. But, while I cannot fix the problem and end the pain, I can bear witness to it, I can sit with a person and let them know that they are not alone, I can help support people through the complicated process of grief.

Grief can take on many forms. It could be the death of a loved one, it could be the ending of an important relationship, or it could be the loss of one’s previously conceived identity. Regardless of the form of grief, these ideas have been useful for those traveling through it.

1) Grief is not a straight and constant path.

Because the pain is so intense, people like to believe that each day they will get better and better. While sometimes that happens, often it could go more like this:
  • Horrible
  • Terrible
  • Ok
  • Good
  • Great
  • Horrible

People often feel discouraged and will say things like “This is even worse, because I thought I was better and now I’m right back to where I started!” It may feel like that, but that is not the reality. If you can accept that the process can zig and zag a bit, and anticipate that it could be horrible again, it can soften the blow. Understanding that the way through grief is not a straight and constant line is useful.

2) There is no wrong way to grieve.

Many clients have asked me if I think that they are grieving appropriately. The fact that they are asking this question tells me that they are. The truth is, there is really no wrong way to grieve. People are going to need different things. Some may find it helpful to stay busy, while some may feel it is best to take some time off. Some people want to be alone, while others would like to be surrounded by friends. Some people cry, some people don’t.

As a therapist I can offer you suggestions that have been useful for others, but ultimately grief is an individual process. If you are cognizant of the fact that you need to grieve, and questioning whether or not you are doing it right, you are doing exactly what you should be doing.

3) Think of grief as a road trip.

Imagine you are taking a cross country road trip. You have to be somewhere but timing is not important. Imagine you are heading from Illinois to California. Some days you may cover a lot of ground. You will drive miles and miles even though you want to stop, you will just keep going. Some days you may travel a little, but get the rest and break that you need. Some days you may not travel at all, and spend the night at a hotel. Ultimately, none of these choices are wrong, and all serve a purpose in helping you get to where you need to be. Grief is very much the same.

Some days will be really hard, and you will feel a great deal of pain and that day will feel like an eternity. Some days you may push through and push thoughts of sadness to the back of your mind and try to focus on other things. Some days you may even not process your grief at all, and simply enjoy the moment. None of these are bad, and eventually you will get to where you need to be. But, you may just cover a bit more ground if you allow yourself to really feel. I mean really feel. Lean into that sadness, lean into that hopelessness, lean into that pain. While it hurts, it also allows you to feel what you ultimately need to feel.

Therapy can be useful, because it can give a person the space that they need in order to grieve. Often people feel that their friends and family are just “done” with them. Or maybe they feel that no one understands, or that they don’t want to be a burden. Knowing that weekly they need to go and are expected to talk to someone about what they are experiencing can be reassuring. While I SO wish that there was something I could actually do to make the pain go away, I am honored and humbled when someone trusts me enough to allow me to accompany them on at least some part of the journey. I dedicate this article to my clients who have allowed me to do just that.

So often I hear these words from my clients: “I just cannot get past this”.

The “this” that they are trying to move past can take on many forms. It can be something as severe as childhood abuse/trauma. Or, it can be something seemingly minor, like an embarrassing incident at work. Struggling to move forward is frustrating.
I would like to give a very brief explanation of what EMDR is and I will include a link which can provide more information. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a technique used to help people “reprocess” traumatic events. It is done in the office, and the client is asked to either follow the clinicians hand to produce back and forth eye movements, or by listening to bilateral tone or feeling bilateral taps. The idea is stimulate both sides of the client’s brain. The client is very awake and very conscious, and this is not hypnosis.
As this post cannot possibly cover the scope of EMDR, Please use this link for more information: http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

In EMDR circles they talk about Big T and Little t.

Big T refers to trauma in the sense that most of us understand it:  major accidents, abuse, violent attacks, etc. Little t refers to trauma that we may not even think about. These include: being spoken to harshly, not having the support we need, arguments in important relationships, etc. It could be we suffer psychologically and do not even attribute our suffering to the little t, because it often gets much less attention than the big T.

Of course EMDR can help someone move through the Big T, but surprisingly it can also help with the little ts. If fact, it can even help identify little ts that the client may not even be aware of. In EMDR sessions clients have reported “making connections that they have never made before”. An example of this: A woman has a hard time at work taking orders from her female boss. Through EMDR sessions, the client realizes that how she feels at work reminds her of how she felt as a little girl when her mother would criticize her. Does this connection change her bosses attitude? Of course not. But, what it does do, is allows her to observe the issue more objectively, and not internalize the criticism as a total rejection.

EMDR can help with many different issues, and if you have any questions about the process, please do feel free to reach out to me. [email protected]

About the Author

Heidi Kalman, LCSW is a therapist at our Edison Park and Sauganash locations. Heidi works with adults, couples, and families. Heidi’s specialties include EMDR, anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms. If you are interested in working with Heidi, send an email today!

As a therapist who often works with couples or individuals with relationship issues, it is fascinating to see the patterns that emerge. We all have them. It seems in every relationship we are in, varieties of the same issues come into play. Of course, depending on the intensity of the relationship the trait can vary from annoying to extremely painful. For example, it may be a slight annoyance if it seems like the sales person is not really listening to us. But when it seems like our significant other is not listening to us, it can become painful and isolating. The point of this article is not to take the blame for others insensitivity, but to better understand what “pressure points” are and how we can protect ourselves when it feels like ours are being pushed.

What is a “pressure point”?

According to the dictionary, one definition of a pressure point is “an area of the body that is sensitive to touch”. If someone has a sore back, when that specific area is touched that person may wince in pain. The same spot can be touched on someone else and they will not even feel it. When it comes to interpersonal relationships it can be helpful to apply this physiological concept of pressure points to emotional aches as well.
Consider our example of feeling like people don’t listen. One person may be able to laugh it off as the other person being a space cadette, while another person will feel deeply pained by it. What is fascinating, is that that same person who feels pained by being unheard might be totally ok with something like harsh insults. The point is, it cannot be concluded that someone is just hypersensitive. It seems that there are specific emotional pressure points that can be pushed by those we are in relationships with.

How Can we Identify Our Own Pressure Points?

Think back to your earliest relationships– your parents, your siblings, family members, childhood friends. Can you identify some of the conflicts you have had with them? It could be something extreme like childhood abuse or substance abuse issues. Or it could be more subtle like slight criticism or just a vague feeling of being uncared for emotionally. Our earliest relationships often create the patterns we are forced to understand and compensate for later on in adulthood. The intention is not to blame our parents for our issues, but to understand where our pressure points may be. Here are some common examples of pressure points and understanding their origin:
  1. A woman gets mad at her husband for drinking too much alcohol, even just occasionally. It turns out, she had to deal with her alcoholic father as child and felt quite embarrassed by it. When her husband drinks (even responsibly) that pressure point is pushed.
  2.  A man has a very hard time at his job. He was reprimanded by his boss that he is unable to accept criticism, even when it is simply just constructive criticism. It turns out, as a child he was very harshly criticized by his father. Criticism (even constructive) is his pressure point.
  3.  A woman is struggling to be in a long term relationship. She notices her past boyfriends report she can be “too needy” or “clingy”. It turns out, many years ago this woman’s father left her mother and went on to start a different family with a different woman. The woman on a conscious level feels that she has moved forward from this. However, the fear of people leaving has become her pressure point.

How Can We Use This Idea to Improve Our Relationships 

We cannot possibly expect our significant others to never push our pressure points. However, it can definitely be helpful to sit down and have a conversation about this concept. In the first example above, the woman can sit down and explain to her husband: “I know you are not an alcoholic. But I just want to explain to you why I react the way I do when you drink too much, even occasionally.” By doing this, you make it more about you and your own struggle and less about criticizing the other person. You are not ignoring or suppressing your feelings. Rather, you are addressing them in an open, honest and non confrontational way. Sometimes, just the understanding of one’s pressure points can diffuse the conflict.
One last idea that could be helpful:  It’s important to try to figure out what our partners’s pressure points may be. Some people may be less capable of expressing and exploring this concept than others. If we can try to figure it out and avoid pushing it when able, the whole relationship could dramatically improve.

About the Author

Heidi Kalman, LCSW is a therapist at our Edison Park and Sauganash locations. Heidi works with adults, couples, and families. Heidi’s specialties include EMDR, anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms. If you are interested in working with Heidi, send an email today!

6 Things Your Therapist Wishes She Could Tell You ( And Make You Really Believe) 

1) I’ve been there too.  As therapists, we are taught about the dangers of revealing too much of our own experiences. It is not that we are super secretive, it is that sharing too much may taint your experience and influence your feelings, which would be counter productive to good therapy. But, let me tell you, when you are in my office, crying, and your hurt is palpable, I so badly want to tell you that I have been there too.
2) You can do better. There are times I actually have said this to clients, but there are many times I have not, because I want you to get there yourself. So many people think so little of themselves that they put themselves into situations that reflect this belief. For example, they will stay in an unhealthy relationship where they are treated in the way in which they view themselves. Or, they will stay at a job that they hate, because they believe it is the best they can do. Our job is not to completely uproot your life, but please know that chances are good I truly believe you can do better.
3) Don’t Worry! Don’t worry is one of the most useless phrases in the English language. “I shouldn’t worry? Oh okay! thanks for that, I feel much better,” said no one ever. While this phrase is useless, there are times I wish I could somehow implant this idea into your brain. As the unbiased observer, I can often see so clearly that it is going to be okay, but I am also aware of how not okay it feels. I wish there were a way to say this, and make the listener truly feel it.
4) I worry too. Some of my clients have conveyed to me that they feel jealous that I seem to have it all together. Here is a secret, I don’t. Because of my profession I am very self aware and constantly working on self improvement, but I have my moments as well. We are in this thing called life together, as fellow journeyers.
5) I also sometimes wish we could be friends. Some clients have expressed to me that they feel had we met under different circumstances, we would totally be friends. The truth is, you are probably right. I am not asking to hang out not because I don’t want to, or would feel burdened by it, but because I value the work we are doing. Our therapeutic relationship would not be what it is, and your growth would be impacted if we didn’t keep our relationship therapeutic. (although our Code of Ethics prohibits this) I keep it professional for your benefit. But, you should know, the feelings are mutual. I agree, we probably would be friends in different circumstances.
6) I really value our relationship. I try to convey this to clients in some ways, but I never sense they truly believe it. Sometimes I feel clients think I say it to be nice. But I wish I could make my clients understand how true this is. Don’t apologize for reaching out to me between sessions if you need it. Don’t apologize for going a few minutes over, my job is to watch the clock, not yours. It is said that the most important component of good therapy is the relationship. Please know that I truly value ours.

About the Author

Heidi Kalman, LCSW is a therapist at our Edison Park and Sauganash locations. Heidi works with adults, couples, and families. Heidi’s specialties include EMDR, anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms. If you are interested in working with Heidi, send an email today!

5  Simple Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness Practice into Your Life

By: Heidi Kalman, LCSW

Life can be very chaotic and stressful at times. Mindfulness practice can help you use these difficult times to your advantage. It is like exercise for the mind. The more you practice, the stronger you become. Mindfulness is not about “living a stress free life” But it is about learning new skills to manage the challenges of daily living. Below are a few simple ways to incorporate mindfulness practice into your life.

1) Live in the moment: This may not mean what you think it means. In relation to mindfulness, living in the moment is not “partying like there is no tomorrow”. Living in the moment is making a conscious effort to be focused on that exact moment. For example, if you know that you have a presentation to give at work the next day, pretending like there is no tomorrow will not help you. However, worrying too much about the presentation may not be helpful either. Think to yourself: “This moment I will review my notes”, or “This moment I will concentrate on my breathing”. Living in the moment is being present in your life and not obsessing about the past or worrying about the future.
2) Accept things as they are: It is incredibly easy to pick apart our own lives. Often we will spend much time thinking about how we should be, or what we should be doing.  Mindfulness promotes an attitude of acceptance without judgment. Again, this may not mean what you think it means. This does not mean you should just accept everything and not strive for improvement. This type of acceptance is about letting go of how you believe things “should be” and accepting them the way that they are. For example, if you are unhappy with your current position it is possible that the first step in moving forward is accepting the situation as it is. There is a quote by Carl Jung that comes to mind: What we resist, persists” with this in mind, sometimes the best way to move forward is through genuine acceptance.
4) Try to not react immediately: This actually probably means exactly what you think it means. So often we react quickly to people or situations that are troubling. For example, if a significant other does something to upset us, our knee jerk reaction is to just fight back. Make a conscious effort to give yourself some time before you react. This is not to say you should just ignore the issue. But try to separate yourself from the situation and give yourself a little time before you react.
5) Learn to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable: This can be challenging to do, but can be incredibly liberating. We are trained to believe that it is  not okay to be uncomfortable. When we are faced with discomfort, be it emotional or physical, our gut reaction is often to fight it or resist it. Try accepting discomfort, and try going even further, and be okay with it. For example, next time you get a headache, instead of thinking to yourself “oh no! not a headache, I have so much to do, I can’t deal with this now…” Think to yourself “okay. so I have a headache, my head hurts a bit, but I can do this.” This can be applied to emotional discomfort too. For example, if you are feeling down, don’t think to yourself “I am so depressed, how am I ever going to continue with this…” Think to yourself “Yes, I am feeling a bit depressed right now. I have had this before and I got through it, I will get through it again. It’s okay to feel depressed sometimes”. Learning to be comfortable with discomfort will build your resistance and before you know it, things will bother you less.
While these suggestions are simple, that does not mean they are easy. But the good thing about mindfulness, even doing it just a little bit will have a positive impact on your life. I challenge you to take on these mindfulness skills, with an attitude of self acceptance and without judgment.

About the Author

Heidi Kalman, LCSW is a therapist at our Edison Park and Sauganash locations. Heidi works with adults, couples, and families. Heidi’s specialties include EMDR, anxiety, depression, and somatic symptoms. If you are interested in working with Heidi, send an email today!