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Emotional Contagion – what are you spreading or catching?

I live in New England where right now in the middle of the winter of 2018 there seems to be a massive Flu epidemic. It’s cited as being the worst in history, with people unwittingly passing it on to others who then do the same. It’s a classic case of physiologic contagion. We’re all advised about washing out hands, not sharing towels or utensils, and staying home if we have symptoms to avoid unnecessary spread of the illness which can be fatal.

But what about other forms of contagion? Who notices them and gives us tools to avoid spreading the unsavory?

Contagion in relationships is much like the Flu – if you get too close and aren’t mindful, you’ll catch, in this case, the emotional state of someone you may feel sympathy towards.
If your spouse is depressed and lolling around, if you aren’t proactive you may end up “mirroring” them with similar body language and affect. We all seek people who will mirror us accurately as a form of bonding and connection, but when a loved one is very down or anxious, you want to be careful to not take on their attitude, but instead to feel compassion, and try to provide support. It’s a fine line of difference.

If a friend is feeling hopeless about a relationship or job, you can listen and acknowledge their pain, maybe even ask if they’d like some suggestions or a reality check around their experience. But that’s different from hanging around with them and getting into long, shared experiences about how partners or jobs are unreliable, and tapping into your own negative beliefs about these things. Then the feeling and attitude has been contagious. You’ve “caught” it.

If when you empathize with a loved one by connecting with similar experiences you’ll need to also connect with any lessons you learned or things you gained from the experience, so you don’t “catch” the “hopeless bug”. You’ll need to remind yourself of anything you may have done to get past the experience to something brighter.

It may be useful to remind your loved one of their resources and resilience they’ve demonstrated in the past around these kinds of issues. You can become a subtle cheerleader for their strengths, without sounding too chirpy.

It will also be helpful to limit time spent with someone in a very dark state. You cannot help them if their narrative becomes your own, so make sure you engage in activities before or afterward which remind you of good possibilities in life. You will be a sunnier presence for them as well if you practice this.

You can then make hope the contagious feeling instead!

Wednesday 1/17/18 8:30 PM EST BlogTalk Radio Episode: “How Good a Partner are You? Take the Test”

In this half hour episode I explore the issues involved with being either a clueless spouse / partner, or one who has healthy, loving partnership skills. This episode taps into emotional intelligence, how highly you would rate yourself when examining your attitudes, knowledge and practices in your primary relationship, and identifying areas where you may need to improve to avoid misery, and to create more satisfaction for you and your partner / spouse. Tune in and take the 20 question test to get a better read on how the experts might score you, also to get a better sense of where you might be headed for avoidable trouble!

To join the conversation live with questions or comments call toll-free 877-497-9046.  If you can’t make the live show you can hear the recording anytime afterward at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

However you tune in, you won’t want to miss this episode! You’ll learn about relationship skills and practices essential to happiness and trust!

Giving Yourself Permission in 2018

Most of us are familiar with the “January Effect” – people armed with New Year’s resolutions to live cleaner: workout regularly, be more organized, eat more healthfully and lose weight, drink less, be more productive and waste less time, etc., etc. 

 Years ago when I belonged to Gold’s Gym we “regulars” would see swarms of well-intentioned people in January jamming up the machines, crowding the classes, full of optimism, only to almost entirely clear out by late February or March. The self-righteous eye rolls or chuckles among the “regulars” would be palpable. After observing it yearly I ultimately decided that this phenomenon might not be so much about laziness, lack of commitment or disorganization, but maybe more about a lack of permission – a lack of giving oneself permission to honor the need for down time, rest, hanging out, or sometimes people’s lack of permission to look at themselves with honesty about what’s really important to them. Had the resolutions to work out rigorously four times a week taken into account what was realistic in the context of people’s sleep habits, infrastructure to take that personal time, need for solitude or need for rest? Often not – coming to the gym frequently sounded good on paper, but had these people given themselves permission to look realistically at all these other factors that could undermine them? I think not.

I met with several couples in my practice after the holidays who talked with surprise and delight about having had a wonderful time with each other and with their kids during the holidays – for some, the first time in years! It wasn’t because they packed more activities in or were “good.” They didn’t go to every festival or capitalize on every possible day to ski or ice skate. They didn’t go to every party. They didn’t jump start their New Year’s resolutions. Instead they gave themselves permission to do less, to relax more, sleep more, hang out more, go offline, and not compete with their friends or neighbors to be the most social, or have the best holiday decorations, or the most elaborate rituals. They had given themselves permission to be honest with themselves about how much was enough, and how much might be too much. They tuned into themselves and their children rather than the hype around them, and it made all the difference in the world.

So, if as you read this you feel some apprehension about becoming a sloth if you practice tuning into your needs for rest and relaxation, take a deep breath and just try it for awhile. You may very well discover that when you legitimize downtime you won’t ultimately be less productive or social or happy. You may just discover a quieter, “slower” aspect of yourself, creating more peace of mind. You may even get to the gym with sufficient regularity after January!

The Key to Being Happy

listen to yourself header
 
I just received this post from my esteemed colleague, Carthage Buckley, a wise and passionate
coach from Ireland I had the pleasure of doing a BlogTalk Radio episode with earlier this year.
I thought this post was so relevant and perfectly worded that I decided to share it with all of you.
 
For anyone wanting more of Carthage’s down-to-earth, practical advise go to:
CoachingPositivePerformance.com.  He’s a prolific writer who deals with all sorts of subjects
relating to maximizing one’s personal best. Read this and check him out!

Listen to yourself and you’ll always be happy

Coaching requires the coach to spend a great deal of time listening the client. When appropriate, the coach will interject with a question. There are a number of reasons why the coach may choose to ask a particular question but quite often the question is saying one thing to the client – listen to yourself. It is important that the client does not just listen to the words they speak, but also to the way in which they say it and the feelings they experience when they say it. This is listening at a much deeper level than most people are used to. When you listen to yourself, you live your values and pursue your dreams. This is one of the most effective strategies for reducing stress and increasing personal happiness.

One day, a heart-warming message was posted on my Facebook page. My Australian friend, Marshall, had posted to tell me that he was enjoying his holiday in North America – the post was made from Vancouver. He wrote to thank me for encouraging him to take the plunge and follow his lifelong dream of visiting North America. It was clear from his message that Marshall was having the time of his life. I had previously spent a year in Australia, working with Marshall. During that time, he had told me many times of his desire to travel. I had offered lots of advice throughout the year but it could all be summed up with one phrase – listen to yourself.

While it is always nice to receive appreciation; I am afraid Marshall’s appreciation is largely unwarranted. For it was not me who inspired him, it was his own dreams. Marshall and I had often talked with our friends about travelling and about our experiences. Marshall was always keen to encourage us to fulfil our dreams. As the year moved on, I noticed a slight change in him. He began to talk more about the places he wanted to see and the things he wanted to do. It became clear to me that he had begun to listen to the advice that he was offering to others.

Marshall’s message reminded me of how I came to be in Australia in the first place. I had been working in Ireland when a colleague asked me for advice. He told me that his girlfriend had bought him a holiday to Egypt for his birthday. It was the one place that he had always wanted to go to. His concern was that he would have to give up his job – it was a summer job. We talked for a short while and he realised that he had to take the opportunity to go to Egypt. He thanked me for the advice and immediately handed in his notice. As he thanked me, my inner voice was screaming

listen to yourself. I had always wanted to go to New Zealand and Australia. I decided there and then that I needed to follow my own advice. 4 months later I had saved €4,000, acquired the necessary visas and was boarding a plane at Dublin airport. I was about to enjoy the best 2 years of my life.

When you listen to yourself it is easier to discover your purpose and live your values.

We all like to offer advice to our friends but sometimes, when we are offering that advice from the depths of our heart, we are not just speaking to our friends, we are also speaking to ourselves. So, take the time to listen to yourself; it may be the wisest advice you ever receive.

 

The Power of “Learned Helplessness.” How to Spot it and What to Do

 
 
 
Hello Reader,
 
Do you have a friend or relative who consistently screws up, forgets things, fails to follow through, or in one way or the other doesn’t take care of their own “life business”? If so, you may be in the presence of “learned helplessness.”
 
Unless these people are clinically depressed or physiologically compromised, this state often has more to do with someone operating at a “youngest sibling” level, expecting that others know more, are more capable, and can assume responsibility for things. They have usually developed unconscious life “scripts” about being inept, or ignorant or incapable, often not challenging these deeply held beliefs. As a result, they lack a sense of “agency,” the courage to try new solutions, and the ability or willingness to try to act effectively on their own behalf.
 
Your friend or relative may make lame decisions or procrastinate endlessly, and is likely to create a need on your part to take over and rescue them. If you feel that you’re watching someone who operates like a train wreck in slow motion, and that you can’t seem to help yourself from taking over to fix things, then you may be a target of their “learned helplessness”! People who demonstrate this are usually experts at training the people around them to go into overdrive “rescue” mode.  They often don’t directly ask for help, but seem to be so helpless that the people around them feel they have to take over.
And don’t be fooled – their “helplessness” is generally very powerful! They get you to take over, pay for things, organize things, make appointments, ask the right questions, and generally fix whatever problems they are faced with.
 
So, if you’ve been feeling exhausted in a relationship which plays out with this “parent – child” dynamic, and feel that there’s a lack of reciprocity, or that you’re pouring lots of effort down a bottomless pit, watch out! You may be feeding someone’s “learned helplessness”! Consider backing off into a more supportive or facilitativrole, allowing them to struggle more directly with problems, and learn that they can direct their power more appropriately into developing solutions for themselves. You’ll be doing yourself, your friend and the relationship a giant service. 
 
If you feel that you need help to deal with this issue in any of your relationships feel free to contact me for an appointment.
 
Cheers,
Susan

[email protected]                                                                 603-431-7131

“Avoid the 3 Mistakes Many Women Make that Repel Love” BlogTalk Radio show Wed., 6/14/17 noon

Tune into this 30-40 minute episode I’ll be co-hosting with a unique relationship mentor, Valerie Greene, who helps couples to stop fighting and fall in love again, and who helps women inspire their husbands or partners into deeper love and intimacy, not relational dread. Providing a highly successful alternative to relationship therapy, Valerie helps women and couples move beyond problem-solving and communication skills to create a secure emotional CONNECTION.

Tune into this special episode to learn more from Valerie about how to transform relationship conflict into deeper intimacy, avoiding the relational moves that repel love.  Join us live with your questions or comments by calling into the studio at: 877-497-9046. If you can’t make the live show simply go to: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager to hear the recording afterward.

How Your Lens Effects Everything

 

This is a pretty winter scene, wouldn’t you say? When you look at it do you see stillness, silence, the beauty of nature imposing itself on a cityscape, maybe a snow day off to relax and refuel? Or do you see a frigid, lonely, oppressive, colorless storm aftermath with probable power outages and traffic shutdowns? Well, it’s all in your lens, or the way you take in the visual experience and the meanings you give it. If you’re a Southerner, or a pessimist you probably zone in on all the discomforts and possible inconveniences associated with this scene. If you’re a hardy New England nature lover, or just an optimist, you probably see the exquisite beauty in the scene. You might view it as an opportunity for a snowshoe hike or a hilarious snowball fight. It’s all in not only what you pay attention to, but the meanings you assign to your selection.

The 2016 election was, (and continues to be!) a perfect example of this issue. You hear from three Trump advocates / surrogates about his behavior in a particular situation and they frame it as “take charge,” “authentic,” “strong,” “warranted.”  You then hear from three liberals about the same events and they frame his behavior as “authoritarian,” “deceptive-lying,” “bullyish,” and “provocatively inappropriate.”  The two sides, based on their lenses can’t even agree about the occurrence of the same exact events.  (To this point, we now even have a new term called “alternative facts” coined by the incoming administration).

Whether you’re a democrat, a Republican, an independent or apolitical, how you see political events and the world in general entirely depends on your lens.

As a psychotherapist part of my work is to a) encourage clients to notice what they pay attention to, and b) challenge the lens through which they take in events, or the meanings they give their experiences. I try to practice what I preach, knowing how radically it effects my moods, energy states and world view. I would encourage you to do the same!

“5 Foolproof Ways to Ruin Your Holidays” on BlogTalk Radio 12/14/16 8:30 PM EST

Don’t miss my next 25 minute BlogTalk Radio episode on Wednesday, December 14th at 8:30 PM EST

If you’ve been telling yourself a story about all the stresses, expenses, difficult relatives, ridiculous gifts, cards to send, the hassles of putting up and decorating the tree, Chanukah forgotten, cleaning the house, making flights on time, too much eating and drinking, getting too fat, cleaning up the house, no time for anything, then this episode is for you!

I’ll give you 5 sure methods to make all the negative spin come true, individually, and as a couple. Enough chirpy info about how to do better! Let’s look at how you can SABOTAGE any fun, joy or meaning!

Tune into www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager for live streaming, or for the recorded episode afterward, OR to join me live on the air with your own Grinch stories or ideas call into the studio at: 877-497-9046  I’d love to make it a conversation!

The Curse of Self-Doubt

It was finally time after almost ten years, for me to part ways with my trusty old office couch. It was beautiful and comfy, but badly soiled and worn, as you can see, after being the repository for thousands of hours of client’s struggles and triumphs. Oh, the stories this tired old couch had heard!

I’d spent months noticing how the cushions were getting more frayed and soiled, obsessing about whether I should have it re-upholstered, (and how would I ever do that?), or to just let it go, hopefully to a new home. Back and forth, decided and undecided I remained for months and months. Now the issue was less about the condition of the couch but my lack of confidence about the “right” decision!

I finally pulled the trigger, after days of measuring and re-measuring, (I’d bought a couch in the past I had to return because they couldn’t get it in the door!) I found what I thought was a perfect replacement and made plans for the Salvation Army to pick up the old couch.  Before they arrived I was caught in yet another wave of self doubt: Did I measure correctly? Would it fit? Would the new one match or be comfortable enough? Did I really do my homework diligently about all this? Was it fair to just discard a couch that had served my clients and me so faithfully? (Does this kind of self-doubt feel familiar to you?) After several agonizing hours I decided to try to trust my perceptions and diligence, and move forward.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t rewarded for the moment of decisiveness when the Salvation Army rejected the donation – “too worn.” With the new one arriving the next day, should I keep the old couch if I had nowhere else to put it? More indecision, and I’m the therapist?

I finally broke the bad trance, deciding this issue wasn’t about world peace, and that I should try to trust my perceptions, as I’m usually a very thorough person. Worst case scenario, I’d have two couches, one parked in the waiting room, and a new one in my office. I put a “free couch” sign on the old one, and within an hour a mother took down my number, exclaiming how perfect this old couch would be for her son who was moving into his own apartment. He wouldn’t be put off by the optics of it, but would love the functionality, especially since it was a full size sleeper as well. Long story short, the new couch arrived the next day, fit perfectly in my office and looks beautiful, and the kid came the next day to pick up his new treasure.

I can only guess what fun he and his roommates will have imagining the therapy dramas his new couch holds. Hopefully, he won’t doubt his own decision to give the old girl a new home just because she’s a little worn out. And hopefully, next time I won’t invite the curse of self doubt into what could be an exciting decision. Maybe? Maybe not…….

Learn About EFT for Couples from the Experts on BlogTalk Radio 11/16/16 8:30 PM

Have a happier marriage when you harness the tools of Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT). Learn from the experts all about this powerful form of brief treatment aimed at helping couples transform their interactions from anger and distancing to connection and deeper understanding.

Tune into BlogTalk Radio Wednesday, 11/16/16 at 8:30 PM EDT at: http://tobtr.com/s/9608805 to catch the podcast live streaming or listen to it afterward at your convenience.  Even better, call into the studio live with your questions or comments at 877-497-9046.  Hope you can join us!

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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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