I often use scales in my sessions with clients. Both as a way to identify current placement compared to one’s ‘preferred future’ and as a measure of progress. With the scales that I use, 10 is always the ‘destination’ as laid out by my client, it’s the place that we have usually just spent most of our session detailing, so that we are clear about where they are going and how they might know they are getting closer. The scale might represent the overall big picture, or it might be something smaller, like self-confidence, or school performance, or intimacy within a relationship. But whatever the scale represents, I always ask my clients to notice when things are better, even just for a little bit, or to notice what is keeping things from getting worse, how they are maintaining and coping and staying afloat when things still feel pretty low.
This last week I was working with a gay couple and after they each scaled where things were as compared to where they want them to be, I asked them to notice in the coming days, when things were a bit higher on that scale, even just a tiny bit. I told them that the first question I’m going to ask them when I saw them next would be “what’s been better?” and so it was very important that they begin noticing immediately when things were better for them. One of them then looked at me a little bit confused and asked me, “do you also want to know about when things are worse in the coming days, so we can talk about that?” I told him no, not at all, however, I said, “if things do dip down for a little while, DO notice the point in which they begin to go upwards again, notice what you do that contributes to that upswing, and what your partner does as well, and then notice how high that upswing goes and how long you’re able to keep it there and what you do that keeps it there for so long.” He excitedly agreed, and off they went to notice.
Life can sometimes be very much like a pendulum, swinging back and forth between as good as it gets and the opposite. If you have the ability to take control of those swings, even just a little bit, why not choose to focus on how you contribute to the upswings and the high points? Learn from yourself and your loved ones what it is that contributes to that upswing, so that you can do those things more often.
swinging up, noticing, staying up, noticing, and so on…
This is kinda fun, huh?
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Harvey Fierstein once said:
“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”
I think one of the advantages of being in the LGBT community, is that we are uniquely forced to define ourselves (i.e. come out) in order to seek true happiness & fulfillemnt. Those of us who are openly gay, bi, or trans, had to go through a process of self-discovery and acceptance, that our straight and/or cis-gendered (look it up) counterparts didn’t get to go through, and as a result, we have a bit of an advantage that others may not have.
Think about it…your personal coming out story says so much about your strengths, resources, abilities, coping strategies, and identity, right? (Hint: The answer is yes!) And now, if you can recognize what you were able to do then, to get to where you are now, you get to use those same amazing skills to further move towards your own personal happiness. You get to decide what fulfillment looks like to you, and then you can simply call on those already proven skills to help get you there.
So…what are your unique skills?
What is your definition of happiness/fulfillment for your life?
Which of those skills that you have already used, can you call on again to get closer to that definition?
How will you know you’re getting closer?
Get the idea?
Sometimes with my gay and lesbian clients who come in as individuals, there is some relationship in their life that is a struggle for them, and they’re hoping to be able to do something different to help that relationship get better, and in-turn they are hoping to feel better. So, the questions is, just what can they do when a relationship with someone they care for is struggling, and the other person just won’t do anything differently to help?
They can take the wheel.
How, you ask?
Well, one way might be to answer a question…and by now, you know me and lists, so they answer it with a list, maybe 15, 25, 50 whatever we have time for.
The question they answer is this:
If tomorrow, you were at your ABSOLUTE best, all day long, and you spent some time talking with this person, remaining at your best throughout the conversation or interaction, what would they notice about you, that might give them the idea that you were at your best? What else? What else? Get the idea??
So, what they do with that list is up to them, but just making it might make it more likely that they are closer to their best the next time they talk to that person they’re struggling with…and then, I always wonder, how might that other person respond differently to them, at this best of theirs? Guess they’d just have to notice…
Coming out as gay or lesbian is a process, and it means different things to each individual who goes through it. When a client comes into my office struggling with the coming out process, I typically take them through an exercise that creates a clear understanding of what they REALLY want, which is typically not to ‘come out’ per say, but to experience the positive IMPACTS of coming out.
So, if you are struggling with coming out, think about what positive impact coming out might have on your life, and make a list of ways you would notice those impacts. Maybe you’ll find that you can do some of those things on your list without taking a leap you’re not ready for yet, and those things may in-turn, help you gain the strength you need to take that leap.
Want an example to start with? Here is an example of a small list of typical ‘impacts’ clients say they think will occur as a result of coming out to themselves, and others. (keep in mind, my clients and I make lists of at least 25, and usually more…the more details you give, the more likely you are to notice the progress you eventually make.)
Signs of the positive impacts coming out might have:
1. Feeling more confidant
2. being more social with coworkers and friends
3. eating healthier
4. being honest about my weekend plans to folks who ask
5. looking people in the eye more
6. laughing more with acquaintances
7. walking taller at work or around town
8. smiling more
9. being more focused at work, getting more done
10. feeling calmer throughout the day
11. holding hands with my spouse in public more often
12. working out regularly
Still feeling a bit stuck?
Call me, I’m happy to help you find your unique solutions.
Rebekka Ouer, LMSW
Dallas Rainbow Counseling