Collectively

And suddenly the world will never be the same. 

We are all literally in this thing together. Millions of us doing exactly what I’m doing right now, working from home. Many more going into their essential jobs, saving the world in their own little corners, doing whatever they can to help. All of us have this thing on our minds, in some way, shape or form. We are all watching Italians sing from their balcony’s, hearing about the dolphins showing back up in the canals of Venice, worrying about the impact of this on our lives, finances, loved ones, futures. Every single tweet, reddit post, Facebook status, relating to this somehow. Here’s what this person is cooking in isolation, here’s the face of this nurse after wearing PPE for 12 hours straight, here’s the link for this news article about this, here’s the mayor, governor, congresswomen, senator, president speaking to their constituents about this, here’s the hero testing the first shot at a vaccine, here’s my cat interrupting my video call, here’s a live at-home concert to watch from your living-room, or a recipe for hand sanitizer, here’s this famous athlete or actor begging the world to adhere to social distancing, here’s this hilarious joke someone came up with, here’s some scary perspective or some heartwarming point someone is making. It’s the most surreal time in world history, when we are all isolated, and at the same time completely connected. 

There’s fear, anxiety, depression, anger, and even still, there’s beauty & humanity. 

I don’t know how long this will all last, but I hope we can focus on the beauty, on all the incredible humanity and the innovations that will come from this time separated-together. Things will never again be the same, and some of the changes that come now will positively impact our world forever.

For those of you who are experiencing the understandable emotional toll this thing is taking, please know that we therapists are available through telehealth. Reach out, make an appointment. Wherever you are, a therapist who is licensed in your state is available, with only the need for a wifi signal. Or if you don’t have a strong enough signal, a phone session is just as available while we are all going through this. 

Here with you,

Rebekka

Simple But Not Easy

One of the things I consistently tell my clients is that what I ask them to do between sessions will be simple, but not easy. The simple request I make, is to notice things getting better for them, notice the hopes they came into therapy to move towards, becoming a reality for them. And they always leave understanding that request and seemingly ready to go and pay attention, and yet when they come back in, they tell me it’s harder than they thought it would be. When I ask them, “What have you noticed?” or ” What’s been better?”, most of the time they struggle to answer, at least for a minute or two. And of course it’s hard.

We are taught from as early as kindergarten, to pay more attention to what we get wrong than to what we get right. If you picture a graded test, what do you see in your mind’s eye? Red x’s, right? Red ink pointing out the things wrong on the paper. From the time we start to learn how to learn, we are taught to focus on what we get wrong, and to then correct it. And in school, that might be quite useful, (although there’s a whole longer argument that maybe we can do that better, too.), but in relationships, with others & with ourselves, I believe doing the exact opposite is a MUCH quicker way to learn and thus get better.

When we focus on what we do right, we notice the impact it makes on our relationships right then and there. And in the moment, where, say, what might have been a huge argument turns instead into a useful conversation that you can build on and evolve from, if you NOTICE it going well, you can take note of HOW you did it, and what the person you love did in return to help it go so well, and in seeing how you succeeded, you’ve made a bit of a blueprint for yourself for how to keep it going in the future.

So, with your spouse, kids, parents, siblings, friends, and with yourself, I ask you to simply ignore the red ink. Ignore what you get wrong, and instead, pay CLOSE attention to what you and they get right, and HOW you got it right. And even, (especially if it’s your kids), tell them when they get it right, and watch that habit create for them, the ability to get it right more and more.

The good thing about it being simple but not easy, is that with practice, it becomes easier and easier, so then, one day, it’s both simple and easy, and thus, incredibly rewarding.

Here’s to focusing on the right answers for a change,

Rebekka

From here to…

After election night, I came into the office wondering how I could possibly be helpful to my clients, who I knew were going to be feeling so much of the exact same dread and fear that I was feeling.

Where this country is currently going, the direction that we are pointing at this moment, is a scary thing to think about. And worse, most of us had absolutely no expectation that we would end up here. (I personally never thought a guy who said and did what he said and did could EVER win the position of the highest office in our land.)

What we do know, is that the worst case scenario for this country in the coming months and years, is truly terrifying, and the best case scenario is likely going to hurt a lot as it becomes reality. Even if some of what happens ends up going well, we know that much of the long-term effects will either hurt us, or someone we love directly in some way. We don’t know where we will land in 4(+) years, but we do know that where we are going will be painful at the very least, dire at worst.

‘So”, I asked myself coming into the office on Wednesday, “what in the world could I do to be helpful, knowing the truth of this?”

What ended up happening in my counseling sessions last week, was our conversations landed in a place around what my clients could do in the coming weeks, months and years to be as close to their best as possible, given the reality that times might start to get incredibly tough and their ceilings for their individual best-self might shift from where it’s been recently. Maybe, in the immediate future, each of us will be a little more angry, sad and/or anxious than we would be had the outcome been different last week. So, if that’s the case, (as it is for me and many), what then, is ‘our best’ in this reality.

What control do each of us have over what is to come, and what do our individual strengths allow us to do, to help ourselves, our communities & our loved ones.

So I decided, after my emotions calmed, I felt a bit less overwhelmed, and I moved closer to acceptance about the undeniable facts of our current reality, that this was what I wanted to write about today.

All that we can do, is to become our own individual best-selves and use our strengths to help us and others, however we can. For some that means writing, creating, putting our thoughts and feelings out there for others to see, feel and consider. (I am guessing that some of the most amazing artwork, books, plays, music, blogs, columns etc.. are about to start being created.) For others it means getting politically involved, locally or nationally. (Another guess, there’s going to be an amazing politician (or several) in years to come who says they were motivated by this election to get involved. And that person is going to change politics and our country for the better.) There’s donating to worthy causes that will likely see a drop in funding soon and for the foreseeable future, and there’s supporting ourselves and our loved ones by spending time together, talking, cooking, socializing, and spreading love.

I am planning on keeping a closer eye on politics, left, right & center, in the coming months and years, because I know that both staying informed of what’s truly happening and knowing that I am not alone in my views is important for me. Further, I know that seeing everything as clearly as possible, even the scary horrible stuff, helps me stay calm and feel more in-control. I want to be prepared, rather than blindsided.

So figure out for yourself, what do you, at your best, do best…. then go do it, knowing that if we all stay involved, doing our individual best, we will get through this as well as we possibly can. And that is VERY different than allowing this to make us our worst and maybe not getting through this at all.

From here to a place where we struggled but fought, is BOUND to be better than from here to a place where we whined and gave up.

Game on. Let’s go.

Rebekka

Bouncing Back

Recently, someone I care about has been having a very hard time. She has been pretty noticeably down, feeling stressed and sad, and for some pretty good reasons. She’s had a lot of friends get sick lately, and one recently passed away, and then she got injured herself. It’s just been a really rough few months.

I was with this loved one yesterday, and I noticed her laughing at something, then as she was cleaning her kitchen, she was humming a bit to herself and she got some small but good news, and she celebrated with her arms raised and a little shout. As I was leaving her company last night, I thought to myself, ‘she really seems like she’s feeling better.’, and then, I turned to her and I told her that I noticed her laughing again and smiling, and that it seemed as though she must be feeling better. She thought about it for a second, and she said, “Yeah, I guess I am!”, and then we bid each other good bye and I left.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about that, and how we are typically really good at noticing when our loved ones aren’t quite themselves, when they’re feeling down or anxious, but are we quite as good at noticing when they bounce back? What difference might it make if we all paid a little closer attention to the better days we have, especially when we’re going through a rough patch?

 

Here’s to noticing that bounce,

 

Rebekka

5 Things

When the supreme court legalized marriage for everyone…that very day in fact…I married the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. We have been together for 5 years, and had been engaged since month 7…but we were waiting for it to be legal….trusting it would happen sooner than later.

The night we got married, before we went to bed, I said that I wanted to start a kind of tradition; I wanted us to tell each other the best things about our day before sleep every night. She readily agreed, saying she thought that was a great idea, and we talked about it some more and ironed out the details. So our tradition is that for every year we’ve been together, every night we give that many ‘things’ we enjoyed about our day. So, since we’ve been together 5 years, we give each other 5 things, and on our 6th anniversary, we’ll move up to give each other 6 things every night for a year…and so on.

So I have to confess, this is not always easy, sometimes she’s tired before I’m ready to go to bed, sometimes one of us is sick (like the night after I had surgery and was still quite groggy from it), and other times one or both of us is in a pretty terrible mood (like the day I found out I was going to need that surgery)…but we have never once failed to do it. Every single night we each list 5 good things about our day…and if I’m in a terrible mood…she helps me a little, making suggestions from things she noticed about my day….and if she’s in a terrible mood I do the same for her…and as a result every single night we end the day on a note of appreciation.

One of the best things this has done for me, is that as something cool happens in my day, I am much more likely to take a mental note of it…so I can remember to add it to my list of 5. And that has added a positive jolt to many days, and it has forced me to take note of what I’m doing or what is happening that I like and appreciate. Another cool thing, is that if someone is with us around bedtime, like her niece or nephew, that person joins in, and we get to hear about the things they consider positive in their day.

Perhaps the coolest thing though…is that I feel like I’m more of a part of my wife’s day now…I know a bit more about her work and her colleagues than I did before, because she’ll tell me something positive about one of them, and this will spur a little conversation about something that we may never have talked about before starting this tradition.

So, my challenge to you, if you feel it could be helpful for you… is to start something like this of your own. With your spouse, kid(s), BFF, sibling…whoever and however you’d like. And if you do, I’d LOVE to hear about it. You can find Dallas Rainbow Counseling on FB or twitter and let me know how it worked.

This post is definitely going on the list tonight. :)

Rebekka Ouer, LCSW

Drinking Peace

I was visiting with a client I’ve seen pretty regularly for about 3 months or so, who is working his way through an incredibly tough time. He came in after a rough week, and said that his anxiety has been through the roof that week, especially at work. I asked him if he could pick one character trait, or feeling to be filled with in the coming days, what would he choose. He thought for a minute and he said “Peace, I want to be filled with peace.”

Because I know this client so well, I know that one of his daily routines is to drink a full glass of water right when he wakes up every single morning, so I asked him this question:

“If that morning water you drink tomorrow were somehow infused with peace, how might you notice?”

And off he went, describing a day in which he was filled with peace. When I saw him again two weeks later, he was feeling a whole lot better, and when I asked him what was different; he said “The water! Every time I drink my water I can feel the peace it’s infused with as it goes down my throat and into my stomach, and now that peace stays with me.”

What would you want your water or coffee be filled with, and what difference might it make?

Cheers,

Rebekka

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