Monday, July 25, 2016

Letting Go of Control: A Blog by Dr. Amy Johnson

“If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.” ~Proverb
I’ve noticed that things go much more smoothly when I give up control—when I allow them to happen instead of making them happen. Unfortunately, I’m terrible at this.
Although I’m much better than I used to be, I’m a bit of a control freak. I often use perfectly good energy trying to plan, predict, and prevent things that I cannot possibly plan, predict, or prevent.
As a recovering control freak, there are three things I know for sure about trying to control things:
1. We try to control things because of what we think will happen if we don’t.
In other words, control is rooted in fear.
2. Control is also a result of being attached to a specific outcome—an outcome we’re sure is best for us, as if we always know what’s best.

When we trust that we’re okay no matter what circumstances come our way, we don’t need to micro-manage the universe. We let go. And we open ourselves to all sorts of wonderful possibilities that aren’t there when we’re attached to one “right” path.

3. The energy of surrender accomplishes much more than the energy of control.

I suspect it’s slightly different for everyone, but here’s what ‘control mode’ looks and feels like for me:  My vision gets very narrow and focused, my breath is shallow, adrenaline is pumping and my heart rate increases.

My mind shifts from topic to topic and from past to future very quickly, and I have little concentration, poor memory, and almost no present-moment awareness.

In surrender mode, I’m calm, peaceful. Breathing deeply, present in the moment. I see clearly and my vision extends out around me, allowing me to (literally) see the bigger picture.

So the great irony is that attempting to control things actually feels less in control. When I’m micro-managing and obsessing over details, I know I’m in my own way.

The Art of Surrender

Surrender literally means to stop fighting. Stop fighting with yourself. Stop fighting the universe and the natural flow of things. Stop resisting and pushing against reality.

Surrender = Complete acceptance of what is + Faith that all is well, even without my input.

It’s not about inaction. It’s about taking action from that that place of surrender energy.

If letting go of control and surrendering not only feel better, but actually produce better results, how do we do that?

Sometimes it’s as easy as noticing that you’re in control mode and choosing to let go—consciously and deliberately shifting into surrender energy.

For example, when I become aware that I’m in control mode, I imagine that I’m in a small canoe paddling upstream, against the current. It’s hard. It’s a fight. That’s what control mode feels like to me.

When I choose to let go and surrender, I visualize the boat turning around, me dropping the oars, and floating downstream.

I’m being gently pulled, no effort necessary on my part. Simply breathing and saying, “Let go of the oars” is usually enough to get me there.

Sometimes it’s a little harder to make the shift from control to surrender. Here are a few questions that can help:

1. What am I afraid will happen if I let go of control?

When you pinpoint the fear, question its validity. Ask yourself, Is it true? If you’re afraid the night will be ruined if your boyfriend doesn’t remember to pick up eggplant (and you’ve already reminded him 14 times), question that assumption.

Can you really know the night would be ruined without the eggplant? And if it would be ruined (by your definition, anyway), what’s so bad about that?

2. Find out whose business you’re in.

Your business is the realm of things that you can directly influence. Are you there? Or are you in someone else’s business? When we’re trying to control things outside of our own business, it’s not going to go well.

3. Consider this: Would letting go feel like freedom?

It almost always would. Let that feeling of freedom guide you toward loosening your grip.

A Friendly Universe

Einstein said, “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”

I believe in a friendly universe.

Being receptive and allowing things to happen is a skill that can be practiced and improved upon. It helps to believe in a friendly universe—one that is supporting you at every turn so that you don’t have to worry yourself over the details.

We can always choose to do things the easy way or the hard way. We can muscle through, or we can let go of the oars and let the current carry us downstream.

There is a peaceful, yet focused energy that accompanies holding the intention of what I want, but not forcing myself to do it. That energy is magic. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m allowing it to become a habit instead of making it a habit.

If you need help letting go, please contact L. Kay Byers, LPC-S at 214 546 4514

Monday, July 18, 2016

Paying the high price of infidelity

One client's story:
I’ll never forget the day I found out my husband had been cheating on me. I was sitting at the kitchen table paying our bills when my partner came home from work late. He’d been doing that from time to time, but I thought nothing of it. This night was different. As soon as he came through the door, a heavy, dark force entered our apartment. I didn’t realize at the time it was infidelity. “What’s wrong?” I asked. When he didn’t answer, I walked over to him and we sat down on the living room couch. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “I’ve been having an affair.” My heart started pounding, my mouth immediately dried up and I felt the room spin. As he recounted the whole sordid tale, I cried, screamed and raged for hours until I had no more. Infidelity has ravaged me, and our relationship.
In the aftermath of that horrible night, I performed at work in a perfunctory fashion, and at home, I ignored my partner’s existence and retreated to the spare bedroom. I went into survival mode and scoured the internet for similar stories, reports, forums and more, until I ultimately forged a plan to repair my shattered heart, and maybe even our relationship. These are the highlights of what I learned about infidelity from both the internet and a gifted counselor.
Infidelity shatters the sanctity of trust in a relationship
Since trust is a major requirement needed for any relationship to succeed, a romantic betrayal is particularly devastating. True intimacy can only be achieved when partners totally trust one another, and a breach of that trust shatters a relationship at the core level. What’s worse, people like this client who trusted their partner and are completely blindsided by an infidelity, suffer more than someone who has been suspicious, because it also makes us question our own innate judgment.

People who are suffering from their spouse’s infidelity also go through a grieving period over the loss of trust. Often times, they run through the whole gamut of emotions during this time such as depression and anxiety, anger, helplessness, frustration, lack of self-esteem and more. Often they have had a hard time focusing on anything and sleeping during this time too.

But as the couple work through their feelings and began to communicate with their partner again, they discover there is a path to recovery. First, they agreed that if they both wanted it enough, they could survive the infidelity, and maybe – just maybe – come out stronger on the other side.

In order for them to move forward, he needed to admit that he messed up and fully take responsibility for hurting his wife, himself, and their future together. They also needed to look at what factors might have contributed to this happening. Did he feel insecure sexually, and this affair boosted is self-esteem? Were they making enough time for each other?

Next, he needed to completely sever ties with the woman he cheated with. That meant that he had to speak with her to tell her in person, and he requested a transfer to a different location so he wouldn’t see her at work anymore.

Finally, he had to agree to give he the time she needed for her emotional wounds to heal, plus limit the time they discussed his infidelity. They always tried to limit those talks to a half hour, and follow them up with a fun activity together.

Together, they forged ahead with one singular purpose – to save the marriage. I am happy to say they are still together.

If you find yourself in need of professional help, please do not hesitate to contact L. Kay Byers, LPC-S at 214 546 4514.

Monday, July 4, 2016

You, Your Partner and Technology: A Modern-Day Love Triangle?

There is no arguing that our lives have been impacted by technology. Technological advances over the past several decades have progressed our society and culture way beyond what our ancestors could have ever dreamed. Professionals in the Psychological community, such as Kay Byers, Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPC-S), have been closely monitoring the expanding computer-and-human association since the 1990s, because of how technology virtually touches every aspect of our lives. Recent leaps forward in technology have forever changed how we interact and communicate, conduct business, gather and disseminate information, shop for things we need, entertain ourselves, and more. 

Digital discoveries in education, business, healthcare, emergency response, commerce, law enforcement, social connection, science, and more have shaped society and the human race in ways we are not even fully aware of yet. However, counseling mental health professionals like Kay Byers, LPC-S, are studying the effects technology is having on social interaction and relationships in order to help patients deal with — and protect themselves against — fallout caused by overly-intrusive and interruptive technology.

For instance, in her practice providing individual counseling and couples counseling, Kay Byers and her counseling associates have begun to get a glimpse of what long-term effects technology has on the way people communicate with each other. In an age where texting, snap-chatting, tweeting, and instant-messaging is the norm, those who remember pre-internet human interaction wax nostalgic over the lost art of the conversation, and enjoying romantic relationships without the aid — or intrusion — of technology.

Kay Byers, and other members of the pychological community, are dealing with this new phenomenon in individual and couples counseling. For instance, the term “technoference” was coined by Penn State University’s Brandon T. McDaniel, who specializes in the studies of human development and families. The term reflects the disconnect some couples are experiencing due to people being “addicted” to their mobile devices and technology, to which they are always connected. As a result, they are always “on”, and consequently, distracted from their partner.

As Kay Byers has discovered during some of her couples counseling sessions, the sometimes-obsessive tendency to always be checking devices, smartphones — even watching TV — can drive a real wedge between romantic partners. Time spent making meaningful connections with each other by enjoying activities, eating and even talking, is often interrupted by these forms of technology. This leaves the other partner feeling dissatisfied with the relationship, frustrated and isolated at times - even if the technoference is not done on purpose. Smartphones in particular appear to cause the most interference because people can do everything on them - view and post on social media sites, check email, take pictures, check news and sports scores, and more. In fact, it has been reported that among women, approximately 70% of them believe their romantic relationships are being meddled with by these modern marvels.

Whether intentional or not, someone constantly being drawn away from their significant other — and into the lure of technology — sends the message to their partner that they are not really important to them. That can cause real problems to the couple, and to the individual. Along with stunting the intimacy of the relationship, this can even bring on angry and negative feelings about a person’s own worth, life in general, and contribute to depression and other mental disorders. This is not to say that smartphones are always damaging to romantic relationships. In fact, when used properly, the time saved taking care of things on your smartphone can give people more time to spend with their partner.

Through her couples counseling and anger management counseling services, Kay Byers, LPC-S, advises the following tips to set boundaries and keep technology from ruining romantic relationships.

#1 – Let’s Get a Few Things Straight
Come up with a few agreed-upon rules about when technology will be off-limits. Probably the first hour home with your partner, or dinnertime, are good times to put your device away, so you can devote that time fully to each other to share the day’s events. Shut your device off, or silence it, so you don’t hear alarms and dings that will beckon you to it.

#2 – Don’t Go There
One of the things Kay Byers stresses to her patients in individual counseling and couples counseling is to establish places that will be device-free. This may be challenging at first, since people are used to having their devices with them everywhere. The importance of disconnecting from the world to focus entirely on your partner should be honored in certain areas of your home — such as the bedroom — to ensure boundaries are being set and the relationship is being protected from outside intrusion.

#3 – The Buddy System
Couples in counseling to help their intimacy issues (and generally improve their relationship) should learn how to give each other slack when someone falters, and gently get them back on the right track. Old habits die hard; it’s important to be gentle which each other and find loving ways to remind each other of the rules you’ve agreed upon. Using humor is always a good way to remind your partner without coming across as judgmental or angry. Just make sure that the humor is not sarcastic!

#4 – Cut the Cord
If there are certain sites, apps, games, etc. that are just too addictive to a person, Kay Byers, LPC-S, will suggest removing them. If the relationship is worth making a priority, this might be the best decision to make for someone who just can’t seem to limit himself or herself. After all, these sites can be accessed from a computer or laptop, but are not as immediately accessible as they are on a smartphone that is always at the person’s side.

Kay Byers and her associates have seen the progression of technology in society as a growing strain on relationships in many of the couples they treat. She encourages couples to assess their attachment to their devices, and make appropriate usage adjustments to avoid making them into a third “partner”.

If you need help with your relationship, please contact the office at 214 546 4514 now.