As a trained therapist I've always been curious about life coaching. My curiosity began to peak after having several clients seek therapeutic services while also undergoing life coaching. So, I decided to investigate further. Most of the articles I found focused on how therapist training and licensure requirements are more extensive and rigorous than those of Life Coaches. For example, therapist have to obtain a graduate degree, complete internships during graduate training, in addition too, completing two years of post graduate training and supervision before they can become fully licensed. College is not a requirement for a life coach, but many seek training courses on various topics from various coaching programs where certification is also available, although not a requirement. After reading several articles and finding no empirically supported research sources I became more perplexed. What is the actual process like? What is the focus of the work? So, like any good therapist I decided to undergo life coaching myself. After all, life coaching was growing in popularity for some reason right?
What I Learned
Life Coaching was helpful with prioritizing and setting goals. It also helped me think about my future by assisting me with envisioning the life I want to have and the steps I needed to take to get there. It also kept me highly accountable, driven, motivated and excited about my progress. We focused on self-limiting beliefs and I practiced between sessions on challenging them. I really did feel more inspired and energetic. Overall, it was helpful while I was doing it.
What was Missing
As I therapist and a trauma survivor, for me it lacked integration and a holistic perspective of who I was as a human being and why these patterns existed in me. Don't get me wrong, it was helpful and can be helpful for individuals that want to work on a few very clear set goals and their mindset. Results, for me personally seemed short lived, I just needed something more. I want to be clear, I loved my coaching experiences so much that I have added empowerment coaching to my practice, which is my own brand of coaching that focused on decreasing people pleasing and behaviorally facing fears. I feel that coaching has it's strengths and could be good for a subset of individuals that are overall mentally healthy but struggle in a few areas of their life where goal setting and shifting mental focus is all that is necessary to help them change patterns. But, if you've tried that, read all the books and still struggle internally and externally to make change then therapy is your best bet. Therapy seeks to permanently change how your brain is wired so you don't have to work so hard just to get through life. Therapy restores harmony to the body and soul and because of this changes the way your brain fires, thinks and responds, is trauma informed and empirically supported. In short, therapy seeks to restore and heal you. Coaching seeks to motivate and energize you while helping you stay mentally strong.
Fuel The Soul and Restore The Body
Somatic experiencing seeks to assist the body in discharging the physiological consequences of trauma. By tracking sensation and utilizing movement somatic experiencing can restore the natural rhythms of the body while resolving traumatic memories stored in the body and the brain. This therapeutic approach explores how the body responded at the time of the trauma and how the instinctual, biological responses of fight, flight or freeze along with the associated energy, emotions and cognitions remained trapped in trauma time. For example, if someone tried to assault you, you may get angry those producing the energy and the physiology associated with rage (flight response), or if we identify the source of attack as to powerful to overrun we kick into flight response and to try flee or being in a state of complete shock and overwhelm due to being flooded with fear our bodies may cause us to be rendered paralyzed such as the freeze response. It is important to understand that all of these responses are instinctual or automatic and thus not chosen consciously by the individual and occur in milliseconds when we are under threat. If we cannot release this energy after an attack it gets trapped in our nervous system and our bodies will continue to relive the physiology of the trauma even when we are not in danger which can result in traumatic stress symptoms and PTSD reactions for a lifetime until the body is assisted in releasing this energy inside.
Somatic Experiencing helps us slow down and tune in so we can move through trauma that is unconsciously stored in the body. The goal is to free up our physiology so that we may function in the world the same way we would if we never experienced the trauma. Restoring the body allows us to stop working so hard to cope and survive and gives us an opportunity to thrive in the world naturally. If you have experienced trauma that no matter what you try to cope it never really feels resolved inside I highly recommend giving somatic experiencing a try. Your body will thank you for it!
Author Cristina Smugala, MA, LPC Restoring Clarity Counseling and Coaching
There is nothing that can make you feel like a disgracefully shameful human being quite like the guilt trip. It's that horrible sinking feeling that we get in our chest that screams we are letting someone we care about down and leaves us feeling like we are a sad merciless soul. We see the look of disappointment on the guilt tripper's face, they may even criticize us or put us down or blame us for whatever hardship we supposedly created for them. We leave the interaction broken, give into their demand even when there are high consequences for us, our time and our sanity. These individuals have a great way of making us feel responsible for their hardships, their pain and their lot in life.
Understanding the Guilt Tripper's Intention
They use manipulation to get their needs met instead of doing the hard work of learning to love themselves. In a sick way, guilt tripper's are using you to feel loved, worthy, important, needed and meaningful. The problem is, they use guilt as a way to avoid effective communication of these feelings by avoiding vulnerability in relationships. It is a form of control.  It is purposeful and intentional and a major contributor to decreased self-esteem for the receiver. It quickly places the manipulator into the role of the victim and you in the rescuer role feeling as if you've perpetrated a horrible offense. Recognize it for what it is, it's emotional and psychological abuse.
How to Respond to the Guilt Tripper in your Life
1. Understand they are utilizing a manipulation tactic as soon as you begin to feel guilty and are contemplating how you can bend over backwards to meet their need, request or demands. You instantly begin to feel bad about things that are not true about you or your behavior.
2. Call awareness to the tactic they are using, stand firm with your boundary and state your feelings about it. You can do this simply by asking, are you trying to make me feel guilty? You can also use direct and effective communication strategies such as “I feel ___when you _____ what I need from you is to stop making me feel like a horrible person" or "It makes me feel guilty and hurt when you say things like this to me and it really pushes me away from you." 
3. Remember this is a tactic the guilt tripper uses and will continue to use because it has worked for them in the past. Don't get discouraged if you have to restate and reset your boundaries, or put simply what is ok and not ok to do to you. 
4. Don't be afraid to give the guilt tripper a consequence to hold them accountable to their behavior such as "If you continue to say hurtful things to me this way to make me feel guilty I will need to stop this conversation.
5. Know yourself and trust yourself. You are a kind and thoughtful individual and you do not deserve to be made to feel like you are anything less. Don't trust a manipulator (i.e. a completely unreliable source of information) when defining your self-worth.
6. It is alright to empathize with the underlying emotions the guilt tripper is unable to communicate effectively (e.g sadness, fear, inadequacy, loneliness, disappointment) while also understanding that their feelings are not your fault. Don't apologize when you are not the root cause of their distress but you can validate their feelings if you feel that they can express appropriately if you open the door for healthy communication. A way to do this would be to say, It sounds like you're struggling right now. Do you want to talk about it ?" 
7. Identify your own fears or barriers about saying no or expressing your feelings (e.g. that they will end the relationship, they will think you are mean or get mad at you, or struggling to feel that your needs/feelings are valuable, or feeling that you are undeserving). One of the best pieces of knowledge a friend shared with me is, "When you request something of someone who is a healthy individual they go into the request fully understanding that you saying no is a possibility and an acceptable response and will push you no further."
1. Orloff, MD , J. (2014, October 4). Do You Have a Guilt Tripper in Your Life? - Judith Orloff MD. Retrieved from https://drjudithorloff.com/do-you-have-a-guilt-tripper-in-your-life/.
2. Ketchie, V., & Ketchie, L. (2018, August 13). How To Navigate A Guilt Trip | Relationship Helpers. Retrieved from https://relationshiphelpers.net/how-to-navigate-a-guilt-trip/.
3. Team, T. B. (2017, August 29). How to Handle Guilt Messages from Your Mom. Retrieved fromhttps://www.boundariesbooks.com/boundaries/handle-guilt-messages-from-your-mom/.
4. Davies, J. (2017, June 3). What Is a Guilt Trip and How to Recognize If Someone Is Using It on You. Retrieved from https://www.learning-mind.com/guilt-trip/.
5. The Bullshit, C. (2017, December 15). Guilt Trip - A Form of Bullying. Retrieved from https://pairedlife.com/etiquette/Guilt-Tripping-is-a-Form-of-bullying.
6. Winch Ph.D., G. (2013, May 16). 7 Ways to Get Out of Guilt Trips. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201305/7-ways-get-out-guilt-trips.
You may find yourself reading this if it feels like there is no room for you in your own life. If you are like most of us, you have been taught that it is negative and dare I say selfish to put your desires and needs above others or even at the same level as others. What is the cost of excessive self-sacrifice? The truth is you know it well or you would not be reading this, right? Excessive self-sacrifice can get in the way of reaching your goals and living the life that truly makes you happy. Over time, too much self-sacrifice diminishes balance inside and costs us our sense of well-being and inner peace. Excessive self-sacrifice actually wreaks havoc on our relationships by flooding us with resentment as we never truly feel appreciated or that we will never get our turn or our space to pursue happiness, rest and play. As we endlessly people-please our confidence starts to decline because when we are maxed out our ability to perform at our best becomes impossible. You may actually find you are more vulnerable to feeling stressed, irritable, tired and angry.
Finding Our Way Out
What if you didn’t need to control others perceptions of you to feel secure? What if it actually felt good to take care of you first when necessary while supporting others when possible? What if you didn’t feel overly responsible for everyone’s feelings and didn’t experience guilt of hurting others when you were doing something loving for your self? These are the necessary steps to being able to accomplish your goals and promote more happiness in your life and it requires a willingness to move through fear of judgment and to stop letting guilt make your decisions for you. What if you just had to face fear and let guilt fall to the wayside in order to fully embody a much more life affirming spirit with a wellspring of love to give? Would you do it?
If you are reading this I highly doubt that you run the risks of lacking consideration of others or that somehow you are only aware of your own needs and run over others for your own benefit. No, that’s not you because you are not selfish. What is more likely is that you are excessively attuned to others feelings that you rarely stop to ask your self what the consequence is to yourself when you assume that others needs are more valuable and worth more than your own.
The only person in the world responsible for meeting your needs is you. In order to reach the point of wellbeing you are seeking, you are required to explore what you want and what you need and take goal directed steps to get there in each moment everyday. We have to stop assuming our needs are foolish and burdensome to others. When we don’t stand up for our real needs we run the risk of trying to obtain fulfillment and happiness through false means such as shopping, eating, and a whole host of numbing behaviors, or feel good now and pay later strategies. We run the risks of hurting not just ourselves but also our relationships. Acoording to Dr. Aziz Gazipura, Author of NOT NICE, when we give everything and feel like we don’t have a choice about it we begin to harbor resentment as we begin to feel that the scales are unbalanced. The reason why we often don’t feel as if we have a choice to say no, according to Gazipura, is because of the internal pressures we feel to not disappoint others. We are also less likely to ask for help and support when we need it too.
Look at the bigger picture; in what ways will prioritizing your needs equally and at times more so than others work out to impact the greater good for yourself and your relationships? Can holding space for yourself actually improve the way you live, love, parent and lead?
1. Gazipura, A. (2017). Not Nice (First). Portland, OR: B.C. Allen Publishing & Tonic Books.
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” -Marie Curie
We all know what fear is and all the various forms and shapes it takes in our lives. It’s the fear of failure, change, humiliation, confrontation, and loss. It’s that nervous energy swirling inside, a looming sense of dread, the feeling of constriction and suffocation that either mobilizes us or renders us paralyzed. Fear is a universal experience and beneath its intense presence it is pure in its intent.
Most of us spend lots of time trying to manage and overcome fear and we follow all of the expert advice. We meditate, exercise, complete various deep breathing exercises, get out into nature, connect with others, get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated. We attempt to distract our minds or we make the effort to stay mindfully present. I find great relief temporarily through all of these things, but then I wake up the next morning and fear is there again banging down my door like it just can’t wait to tell me about all the potential things that could go wrong today and the next day and the next day.
One day, I woke up and decided to investigate and get curious about my fear before I gave into just wanting to get rid of it. I decided I would stop working so hard to manage it and demonize it and just have a conversation with it instead. After all, it had a lot to say and was constantly reminding me of the same things over and over again.
I got out a piece of paper and asked fear to share with me all of the things it was afraid of. Fear was afraid that I was getting everything wrong, that I was making the wrong decisions, and that surely I would be punished or there would be consequences for all this wrong doing.
I then asked fear if all these things were really the truth about me and I got it all wrong and somehow ended up facing some harsh consequences as a result, what did it see happening to me next? Fear said, “Then you will fail.”
And if I failed, then what?, I asked. “You will lose everything”, fear said.
I took a deep breath and in a gentle and compassionate voice I asked fear, “What do you hope for in telling me all of these things everyday?”, Fear replied, “That I can keep you safe and I can keep you protected. If you make mistakes people will think the worst about you, they will ultimately think you are a bad person.”
In that moment, something inside of me softened and I realized that fear was working overtime to keep shame at bay. That fear was actually concerned that shame would somehow be exposed. I knew it was shame because when I heard fear speak I remembered Brene Brown’s brilliant definition, “that shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” That something inside or underneath the fear was actually questioning its worth or value as a human being. Bearing witness to fear I had new insight and began to instantly feel calmer. I realized that fear was constantly in my mind and body taking up all the space because I never once really stopped to listen to it. I felt a new sense of gratitude for the wisdom it shared and the role it was playing in my life. I then knew if I could open more space for compassion and empathy towards myself in my life and spend time honoring my own value even when I make mistakes, fear wouldn’t have to work so hard. I knew trying to manage fear only made it louder overtime and that if I really stopped to be curious about what was going on, I might uncover something that could help me nourish myself in a way that I didn’t expect. I did not have to believe its catastrophizing messages but I did have to understand why they were there in order to find relief.
What is the vulnerable truth underlying your fear? What is the story your fear tells you? What is your fear really trying to protect you from? How can you more actively bring compassion to it in your daily life?
Photo Credit: Photo by Asdrubal luna on Unsplash
See more at The Art of Healing Trauma at : http://www.new-synapse.com/aps/wordpress/
You might be asking yourself this question if you intensely struggle with shame, insecurity and panic in relationships. These struggles may lead you to disown your own needs, emotions and belief systems just to remain connected to someone despite the pain it causes you. If it feels like you continue to get into romantic relationships and friendships with the same type of people over and over again then you might be codependent.
Lets look at the definition of codependency to gain a greater perspective.
Definition of codependency: A way of relating to the world and others categorized by ongoing behavioral patterns of being in relationships that are destructive and lack reciprocity. This behavioral pattern is often associated with low value of self creating an inability to set boundaries without guilt, shame or fear and difficulties expressing needs and desires in relationships. Sound familiar?
What do codependent behaviors look like?
How do I overcome codependency?
1. Identify your true core values by making a values list. A core values list can be difficult to create when you struggle with codependency as you may not be used to looking within (instead of to others) about what is considered acceptable. Click the link for a great list of values examples.
2. Identify how well your current relationships with your parents, partners and friends fall inline with your values. Identify the ways your codependent behaviors go directly against what you have identified you value.
3. Journal about how you learned to sacrifice you basic needs to remain in connection with others.
The 5 basic needs according to the research
4. Get support!!!!! You are not alone: Go to codependence anonymous (coda) meeting
Young, J. E., Klosko, J. S., & Weishaar, M. E. (2003). Schema therapy: A practitioner's guide. New York: Guilford Press.
Photo Credit: indra Nugroho, twenty20.com/indraemon07
First, think about times when a close friend feels really bad about him or herself or is really struggling in some way. How would you respond to your friend in this situation (especially when you’re at your best)? Please write down what you typically do, what you say, and note the tone in which you typically talk to your friends.
Technology can assist you in finding anxiety relief. Here are a few of my personal favorites.
Rewriting your nightmares with a different outcome has shown to decrease nightmares over time and help you connect with a positive and calming experience. Dream EZ is a app that will guide you through this process. Nightmares are a normal way for the brain to process a traumatic event. Isolated nightmares are normal, but when dreams that consist of flashbacks, unwanted memories, visceral fear or anxiety recur often, they can become a debilitating sleep disorder, according to research done by the National Center for PTSD. The Defense Department's National Center for Telehealth & Technology has developed a new mobile application to help users rewrite bad dreams to reduce the frequency and intensity of nightmares.
Meditate your way, with Buddhify a app that personalizes your mindfulness and meditation needs based on your unique struggles. It will help meditation work for you and build your practice routine.
Calm- Allows you to tap into calm anytime of the day. You get to choose between options for sound and length of time, as well as scenes from nature for you to visually focus on while you meditate.
Other features include multiple guided as well as unguided sessions.
The Worry Watch App helps you get rid of chronic worry, by challenging your thoughts and building your mental strength.
Breathe2Relax- Try this app before your anxiety peaks. It will keep you more emotionally regulated throughout the day. This app will walk you through teach breathing exercises to manage stress. Perfect for those who have anxiety disorders, stress, and PTSD.
Headspace- Provides countless meditations to reduce anxiety and stress and improve mindful awareness; good for getting into the habit of regular meditation. The skills taught include mindfulness and cognitive separation from worry, breathing exercises, meditation practice, tips for increased relaxation, concentration; may be applied to anxiety and depressive disorders, PTSD, and OCD, especially in conjunction with a health provider.
The PTSD Coach App is designed to help individuals suffering from PTSD through coping skill teaching and practice exercises.
Anxiety can be crippling and unrelenting often preventing individuals from engaging in certain activities or living up to their true potential. What separates anxiety and fear from other emotions is that it is not just cognitively present but actually physically experienced. One of the main reasons why anxiety can be so debilitating is that it is often locked in the body associated with unpleasant physical sensations such as sweaty palms, increased heart rate and respiration, and stress and tension in the neck and shoulders.
Most often anxiety appears to rise without warning and seems to come out of nowhere. Ever wonder what contributes to your fear, but cannot seem to identify a logical explanation? The explanation may rest somewhere deep within your subconscious experience and may be connected to a past event stored in your sensory memory. Certain sensations and thought patterns are cued each time there is a slight reminder of this event such as a certain sound or tone, smell, and touch. Even the way someone looks at you or their communication style might send signals to your brain that danger is present.
Practicing mindful self-reflection and self-soothing strategies can unlock the mystery of anxiety while also allowing for its release. The first step in mindful self-reflection is to drop self-judgment and criticism over having the anxiety in the first place and instead utilize an introspective approach. Approach your anxiety with gentle curiosity by viewing it from a perspective of wonder. Stop and ask yourself: If my anxiety was a teacher what is it it wants me to learn about myself? Is this fear connected with a core belief about myself or this situation? Am I making assumptions about a person, place, or task? What does my internal dialogue consistent of when the anxiety is present? Where is the anxiety located in my body? Allow yourself to be fully present and connected with the anxiety for a moment, just noticing and witnessing. Become accepting of the anxiety as you are with other emotions that may feel more pleasant. Listen and explore if there are any images or memories associated with it.
Next try to separate from your fear by externalizing your anxiety. Try imaging it having a shape, size, color, and texture. Image yourself placing the anxiety in front of you. Viewing your anxiety as its own being can assist you in the journey of figuring out what the fear may need to feel more calm and soothed. Does the fear need encouraging words or messages or is it enough to sooth your fear just by being a compassionate witness to it? After you feel that you have learned the lesson your anxiety is trying to teach you utilize imagery and deep breathing to envision the tension and the anxiety getting smaller and smaller until you feel relief.
When a person experiences trauma, their body decreases the ability to control their emotions. As Mollon’s research suggested, the experience of trauma deregulates the individual’s ability to regulate emotional experience and manage physical arousal (Mollon, 2005). This process may leave the trauma survivor hypervigelent and vulnerable to any emotional, physical, and sensory cues reminiscent of the trauma. When a trauma cue is present the mind and the body become activated similarly to being exposed to the actual threat (Van der Kolk, 2002). This experience of hyperarousal makes it important for trauma survivors to build skills that will strengthen their ability to not only regulate emotions, but increase their ability to experience safety in the present moment.
Grounding techniques can be utilized to anchor the mind and the body in the present moment. Building grounding skills assists with differentiating between sensations and emotional reactions triggered from past traumatic experience by increasing awareness that there is safety in the present moment. An individual can anchor themselves in the present moment through the utilization of their senses such as sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound. Utilizing the senses an individual can attempt to identify factual objects in the environment that shift their focus to the present moment such as counting all of the blue objects in the room or an individual may orientate their mind to focus on the current time date, and location in which they are (Lee & James, 2011). It is important to focus the attention outward or on external experience.
Enhancing a Calm State
It is also important to practice daily exercises that enhance experiences of calm and safety while promoting the individual’s ability to recover from hyperarousal (Shapiro, 2001). An individual may construct an image in the mind that signifies peace and tranquility (Shapiro, 2001, Miller, 1994). This place can be a real place or imaginary. The most important part of this exercise is to utilize the senses to enhance the experience by noticing sights, sounds, and smells you’d expect to experience in this place while paying particular attention to how the body feels when calm. The positive associations created during the exercise can be cued throughout the day by the use of cue words, objects, and scents. Lee et al., 2011 suggests carrying objects associated with safe memories or utilizing scents that signify safety and compassion as reminders throughout the day. If negative associations begin to develop during the use of the guided safe place imagery, distancing techniques may be utilized to regain safety during this meditation. Such as changing the picture to black and white or building an imaginary force field around the safe place that serves to prevent negativity from entering the scene (Rothschild, 2003). It is important to focus on the breath during this exercise to facilitate centering and relaxation. A person may imagine stressors being released during exhalation and the enhancement of pleasurable sensations during inhalation. For some individuals the utilization of soothing music during this exercise can enhance a calm state and disrupt distracting thoughts from interfering.
Containment exercises provide a way to separate from painful, intense emotions until they can be processed in the safety of the therapeutic relationship. The purpose of containment is to help an individual regain control of emotions by creating the freedom to choose when and where these emotions will be processed. Containment can be achieved by utilizing imagery of an actual container that is large and strong enough to hold painful emotions and memories. This exercise is enhanced by remembering that the container can only be opened when it is safe to do so. The container is then sealed and a person may choose to add negative emotions to hold throughout the day until they are ready to be examined further and processed.
It is equally important to utilize mindfulness, grounding, containment, and guided imagery/relaxation techniques when distressing emotions are experienced and to practice these skills daily even when distress is not present. Continued practice will lessen the frequency and severity of distress experienced overtime while providing an avenue to sooth difficult emotions when experienced.