Words of Wisdom

 

 

If Only...a

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

If only he would get his act together. If only she would knock it off. If only I had a different job. At any point in our lives we can probably come up with some sort of "if only" statement that we feel would make our lives better. However, as we all know, we rarely have all that we want. So, instead of hanging all our hopes on these if's we can be proactive in caring for our self and bringing ourselves a sense of stability. This involves learning how to walk in our integrity. This means focusing on ourselves and how we want to be and act regardless of the situation... This way, at the end of the day, we can look in the mirror and be proud of how we've handled things.

Shame and Shutdown

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

“Shame is a natural reaction to being violated or abused. In fact, abuse, by its very nature, is humiliating and dehumanizing.” (Kaufman) This is especially true with nasty group or individual opinions (bullying) and so-called minor sexual violations. The feelings of being defiled, while simultaneously experiencing the indignity of being at the mercy of another person, are enough for many to shut down standing up for one’s self for a very long time.

Long Life

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Remaining positive in our dog-eat-dog kind of world is no easy task. Studies in the field of neuroscience tell us that giving to others increases our ability to live longer, think happier thoughts, increases our self-esteem and physically improves our health. Focusing on your blessings and ways we can give to others takes on many forms. Verbal blessings, monetary gifts, practical provisions, spiritually extending mercy and grace. All of these help our brains function at an optimal level. We all have days of anxious thoughts and concerns. This is normal and understandable. True contentment focuses on what we have that is good, acknowledging what we don’t have and freely giving what we can.

Emotions

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

Current culture emphasizes a logical, rational way of thinking and being, and with good reason. Hotheads can get us into a lot of trouble. However, this has translated into a devaluing of emotion. Emotions are important though. We are all fueled by emotion, even the most rational person. Emotion is what brings vibrancy and depth to life. When we cut off or deny our emotions we lose out on the joy and the reality of living. No, it's not okay to let our emotions run us and it's not even important that we express them all the time. But what's important is that we notice them, care for them, and honor them. They are good information that tells us where we stand with ourselves and with other people and can help us make informed decisions about how to better our lives. When logic and emotion are paired together then we are fully alive.

Make a Commitment

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Here’s how you give and receive commitment: 1. Respond to bids to connect. Put down the phone, look and listen. 2. Work through struggles together with a team mentality. Keep a struggle as a thing to overcome together not a “whose to blame for this.” 3. Find a way to have fun occasionally even in the daily grind. These things work in relationships and in the workplace.

What People Need

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Dr. Caroline Leaf makes an amazing comment. “Every cell in our bodies is designed to respond to love.” As a cognitive neuroscientist, she understands the reality of what people need to thrive. Behaviors that help anyone thrive is those which originate in the positive existence of love. It is true we need love yet love is not always a global acceptance of all behavior or thoughts. Love means structure integrated with grace, discipline with patience, mercy with consequences, guidance with values, and much more. If every cell in our bodies is designed to respond to love, then true love involves rules with grace, patient discipline, consequences that encourage, and a value system designed to celebrate and respect differences. We could use more of this.

A Curious Case of Mistaken Identity: Knowing Who You Are

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

A few years ago, our oldest daughter was mistaken for someone else. The following is her recount of the incident in her own words: “During my second semester of college, I arrived at school late. I had my backpack, purse, lunchbox, and thermos firmly in hand as I blended into a crowd of 11-12 year olds who were on a field trip. I made it through the doors and tried to head down the main hallway to my classroom. A very dedicated elementary school teacher stopped me and insisted that I not leave the tour group. We argued back and forth, me wanting to get to my class and her firmly telling me to ‘put my backpack and lunch on the bus’ and ‘join the other kids’. (To be fair to the teacher, it should be understood that when I stand as straight and tall as I can, I barely measure five feet. So many of the young students were much taller.) After several minutes of arguing and her physically blocking my path, I won the argument by asking her if she’d taken attendance that morning (she had) and if she’d ever seen me before in her life (she hadn’t). I promptly stepped around her and headed off to my class.” Although humorous, this vignette demonstrates a few key points: Do not look to others to validate your identity. It is important to know who you are even when strangers are telling you that you are someone else. It is important to know your rightful place and proper path even when someone is trying to steer you wrong.

Be Kind to Yourself!

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

The holidays are over and maybe you feel like you can breathe again. This period brings highs and lows, stresses and joys, and many more things than we are usually carrying. Whether the holidays were mostly positive or negative now is the time to focus on getting balanced again. January is an adjustment period. Be kind to yourself and others as you settle back into the normal routine.

Blame Does Not Heal

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Blame may help your hurting for a short time. It will not heal your unrest in the long run.

Aware

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Healing begins when we admit what we are doing that sets us up for relational pain or plain turmoil in life. I read the following earlier this year. “When you are amazed at the lengths to which you go to cover up your wrong actions, you are witness to your own selfishness in action.” Dear friends, be aware and choose wisely!

Your Best

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

You are worthy. You are significant. You are valuable beyond measure. And you are worth your best effort...in everything you do.

Love Others - Change Yourself

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

If you're up on any healthy relationship psychology at all then you will know that the only person you can change is yourself. We cannot change other people. However, we can have influence. And one of the best ways to have influence is to get out of the way. When we stop taking other people's consequences, they get to experience pain. And pain is a gift and a very powerful motivator for change. So, consider, have you been shielding anyone in your life from the consequences of unhealthy patterns? If you have….consider stopping. Chances are they will catch on very quickly and make healthier choices for the future. This is one of the best ways to love people!

Is Life Confusing?

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

There are times in life when things seem confusing. The way out is not looking for what or who is wrong. If you wait and watch, a new way through is probably at hand.

Undermined

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

The holiday season is in full swing. Being swayed by advertising, what others think or crave seemingly comes much easier. Identify and focus on what your core values are: honest exchanges of appreciation, enjoyable time with those you love, and so much more. This season passes quickly. Aid your ability to love freely, give generously as well as receive with a grateful heart. All the rest is designed to undermine our sense and confidence in what we hold true.

Building Fences...Pruning Hedges - Part 2

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

As with taking care of any plant, removing dead or damaged pieces is important for growing and healing. You are allowed to remove dead or damaging habits from your life. You are allowed to remove dead or damaging patterns from your life. You are allowed to remove dead or damaging relationships from your life. You are allowed to have your “yes” mean yes and your “no” mean no. You are allowed to become strong. You are allowed to become the best you can be. You are allowed to become excellent.

Heal Thy Brain

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

The brain is an amazing thing. Just as with a cut on our skin, our brain is wired to heal itself. And as we know with cuts, we need to clean them out, put ointment on them, and bandage them up. Similarly, the brain needs the right ingredients to heal. This includes finding healthy empathetic people, self-compassion, having a positive spiritual connection, and good self-care. Keep adding these things to your life so your brain and all its neural pathways can be healthy and strong.

Stress and Sleep

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

The average amount of sleep that a person needs is 7 to 9 hours. People who are stressed need more sleep. Regardless of where your stress is coming from, be sure to go slow and be kind to yourself and others. Stress and change are hard! Don't hold yourself and others to unreasonable standards. It is perfectly reasonable to rest more and take a break while you're adjusting to whatever it is that's going on in your life. Use this time to recover and to consider healthy changes that may need to be made.

Building Fences...Pruning Hedges - Part 1

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

It is said “good fences make good neighbors”. In some places, land is physically separated by a fence; this is a literal boundary. Establishing internal boundaries in relationships is as important as establishing external boundaries. With clearly defined standards for acceptable and respectful behavior, the relationship can blossom and develop. You are allowed to have your “yes” mean yes and your “no” mean no.You are allowed to become strong. You are allowed to become the best you can be. You are allowed to become excellent.

Enjoy Learning

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

One behavior or attitude that's proven to be encouraging is those who truly enjoy learning. Why? It shows they know they have much to learn, realize their limitations, and treat people around them with respect. I want to be one of those types of individuals. Enjoy learning from those around you.

A View From 30,000 Feet

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

As parents, we have one of the most valuable jobs in society. Children make mistakes that can have devastating consequences. Because we have more life experience, we are able to see the world from 30,000 feet in the air. As children grow, they are able to see their world from an ascending elevation of 1,000 feet. We are responsible to point out that actions have consequences. Our advice is valuable, built from years of personal experience and seeing others succeed and fail. We are equipping our children with their own flying instruments to navigate their lives. When we see a problem ahead, it is the responsibility of our children to listen to our advice and direction on handling or avoiding it. After all, we’re seeing the problem from 30,000 feet.

Love Your Anger?

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

I love anger. It's one of my favorite emotions. A lot of people think anger is bad but anger serves a very significant purpose. Anger is a message from our body and soul that something is off. Sometimes someone has stepped over our boundaries. Sometimes we're not operating in our own integrity. Sometimes an injustice has happened. Anger is typically a response to hurt and/or fear. It gives us the strength and drive to make a healthy change. So, next time that you get angry don't judge yourself. Ask yourself what is causing the anger and how can you use the strength that anger provides to make a positive change.

Wise Communication

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Interacting with those around us on a daily basis is automatic. To make talking simple, there are two choices we have. We can speak poison or life. Reality is, it’s our choice. This reality is sobering. It speaks to the truth that we make choices all day long. For those I care about, the choice carries great weight. Wise communicators will be intentional and cautious with what they say. Be conscious of this choice no matter the person you speak with.

You Are Being Watched

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

As a parent, have you ever felt as though your words have fallen on deaf ears? Even when our children do not seem to be listening to us or taking our advice—rest assured they are listening and watching. The words we speak and the tone of voice we use all matter. The memories of our words become imprinted on our children’s hearts. Our words have the power to encourage and discourage. We must choose our words carefully, wisely, and above all—lovingly.

Help Your Brain!

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

I recently saw a picture comparing two brain scans. One brain criticized daily and the other practiced gratitude daily. Long story short, the brain that criticized had holes in it. The brain that practiced gratitude was full and lively. It just felt better to look at that brain. What we think about determines what we become. What are you dwelling on today? Consider making it the things you're thankful for.

Honoring Choices

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

We have all been faced with situations where no matter what good is given, mean words and behaviors are returned. This type of individual seems invested in viewing good through the lens of suspicion. Just writing these words brings sadness of heart. Sadness in that they may not allow a life free of shame, cruelty, and fear. Honoring their choices may mean limiting oneself in contact with them. Honoring them may also mean ongoing compassion and kindness from a distance.

Competition/Comparison

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Competition and comparison can run rampant in your head. It is draining to sort out how to set yourself apart in a world full of people. The cure for this is to find out who you are specially made to be and get into alignment with it and your maker. It is a huge relief to do so.

A Word About Apologizing

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

Apologizing is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strong character. Sometimes apologizing — not only for what we have done but for how it has affected the other person — improves relationships. A person’s strength of character is best seen with how mistakes or transgressions are handled.

Relationship Wisdom

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

Relationships can be wonderful and they can be very difficult. When things are going well, be sure to take time to notice what's going well and the things you appreciate about the other person. That way, when it's difficult you'll have a store of positives to draw on. Gratitude and finding the good amidst the bad will help keep you from black and white thinking and help you both recover from stress and conflict sooner.

Choices

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Don't make decisions based on those who think the choice is a good one; base it on whether or not you will go against or for your conscience.

Forgiveness Means We Recognize Our Humanity

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

If you are human, you will be less than perfect. You will hurt those you say you love with some consistency. To insist otherwise is to elevate yourself and your ways above another AND this stance is filled with pride, self-centeredness, and results in a very judgmental attitude. No one wants to be in relationship with someone who believes they are ALWAYS right/better than the other. Two things make us all equal: the reality of our humanity/sin and the availability of God’s grace. Dare to recognize your humanity.

You First

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

Feeling overwhelmed? Overworked? Under appreciated? As schedules overflow, the first thing pushed aside is our self care. We make excuses for not exercising, eating poorly and being sleep deprived. While these seem to be solutions to our time crunch problem, our choices catch up with us, inevitably. Good self-care helps to prevent burnout, feelings of overwhelm, and actually helps us to be more productive. It gives us a chance to recharge, manage stress and gain a fresh perspective. So give yourself permission to make time for yourself and do something that is uplifting each day; go for a long walk, eat healthy and get some rest.

It's Summer!

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

It's summer! And with summer comes transition. More time outside. Maybe kids at home. Schedule changes. Vacations. All change whether positive or negative takes psychological energy. Be sure to take care of yourself and your loved ones during this period. Be patient and kind. Go slow. Don't pack your schedule - and give downtime before and after new things. And most of all, take time to be present and enjoy the season!

Can I Fix It?

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Are you one of those who believe if you work hard enough toward a personal problem you can fix it? Some research indicates, for example, 35% of marital issues will not change. (Gottman, et.al.) If in fact this research is true, the axiom: “let go and let God” makes sense. Ramming at a marriage or other problem (the same way) over and over and over again does not help, is hard on you, and is hard on those you care about.

Dirty Feet: Relationship Toxicty

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

I was sharing some family struggles with a dear friend. She quietly pointed out the relationship was toxic to me. When we hear “toxic”, we usually think of something outside of us. To overcome the relationship toxicity, I had to construct physical and emotional boundaries between me and the other person. Although I could not change the other person (no matter how much I wanted to), I could only change my response. As Mahatma Gandhi commented, “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” We can consciously decide to not tolerate relationship toxicity.

If Only

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Phrases run through our minds that are a natural part of the grief process as well as a part of transitioning from one phase of life to another. One of those phrases begins with two words. “If only....” As natural as they are, lingering on these creates longings and behaviors not seen as healthy. Rehearsing the “If onlys” in our mind keeps us living in a fantasy world, lying to ourselves. Can “if onlys” be seen as a defense mechanism? Yes. However, without leaving this behind, we miss out on the blessings we have today. I much prefer celebrating the present than living in a fake world.

Real Freedom

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Real freedom is quoted by John Baker (founder of Celebrate Recovery) as being “..free to NOT do the things that keep us in bondage.” What keeps you in bondage metaphorically? Anxiety? Shame? Guilt? Pride? Dishonesty? I could go on and on. Real freedom is internal not external. We have to start somewhere. Start today, ask for help, stay honest, and walk in real freedom.

Navigating Relationships

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

All relationships with our loved ones give us high highs and low lows. And as with any bumpy ride having navigation help is a must. In our house we came up with this model: "Use words, Get space, Get help." If the first doesn't work, we move on to the next, and if that doesn't work, we move on to the one after that. This is a great way to help everyone we love, including us, feel heard, safe, and empowered.

You Are Loved

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

The very thing that you think disqualifies you from God is a gateway to Him…including a deep, deep understanding of how much you are loved…

Wisdom's Voice

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

We all know truth when we hear it. It’s the deep down inside voice that encourages us in the right direction. Reading about the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep, all the shepherd has to do is call or whistle for his sheep and they come running. I enjoy the picture as it reveals the dependence sheep have on their shepherds voice. My hope is we all develop a listening hear and quick response to wisdom's voice.

Being True to Who You Are

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

My grandmother was an easy person to be around. Those who knew her longer than I, said they never saw her depressed or anxious. I remember whenever we visited her, there would be a stream of guests. She had what we later called a “breakfast club” that consisted of friends and neighbors that would drop by for breakfast and conversation. She then branched out and had a “lunch club” also. My grandmother could easily express her opinions and listen to others. She was always authentic. Learning about who we truly are, our authentic self, is a process and it takes time to discover. Researchers from Harvard, Columbia and Northwestern collaborated to study authenticity. They found that when we behave in a way that goes against our true self, we tend to feel distraught and immoral; even when our behavior would not be defined as immoral. Furthermore, researchers discovered authentic people help others to be authentic. They are able to express their true feelings and opinions. Additionally, authentic people are able to listen to others without judgment. Perhaps that is why my grandmother was so easy to be around - you could be your true self; and express your own opinions without judgment.

Don't Panic!

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

Every day things happen and we respond. Sometimes they’re fun and positive and we feel good. Sometimes they’re dark and stressful and we feel down and under attack. When we encounter these things our bodies respond as if we are in danger. Our heart rates accelerate to above 90-100 beats per minute. This causes us to be in defense mode and we can’t think clearly. The best thing to do in this situation is to remember that “this is not an emergency” and to take at least five deep, belly breaths. We don’t have to react. We can get grounded and choose peace.

A Cup of Energy

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

We need energy to survive. It’s why we eat when needed. There is a need too for emotional/ spiritual energy. That’s why we need rest, prayer, laughter and down time. We can’t give from an empty cup.

All Things Used

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Part of the growth process is the reality that any event or circumstance can be used for our betterment or our demise. Simplistic as it sounds, it is true. A disagreement, a job change, a move, or even a loss can prove to better us or embitter us. It’s not easy but the wisdom we gain is worth the price.

The True Winner

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., CAPSW

The true winner of any conflict is not the one who speaks the loudest, makes the most points, but the one who takes the highest moral plane.

Being Kind

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

We all have anxiety, depression, and stress at one time or another in our lives. There are many things that can help alleviate these issues, one of which is self-compassion. When we are kind to ourselves it allows us to relax and to extend that kindness to others. When we can be kind to ourselves and others, it relieves the pressure of perfectionism. We no longer have to do everything right all the time and this therefore changes the things that we say to ourselves which contribute to our negative feelings. Find ways to say kind things and do kind things for yourself today and notice the difference.

Having An Argument?

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Find a way to step away from the heat of it for twenty minutes. Give your body, mind, and spirit a break. One cannot be rational when the fight or flight hormones kick in.

Saying No to Yourself

Brenda Spina, M.S., LMFT, LPC

Candidly, I love saying yes to myself; yes to what I want to do, be, have, and where I wish to go. This is certainly doable. However, it is not beneficial. When one chooses this path, it means a life without deprivation. The end result may be to live a very self-focused, lonely life. Saying no to yourself is less lonely and brings balance to relationships, finances, health, and spiritual life.

Courage... (stand up)

Christine Vander Wielen, M.S.W., LCSW

As a mother, I have tried to teach my girls to stand up for themselves and others when need be. Additionally, I have tried to teach them to listen before they react because they may not know everything about the situation. In the words of Winston Churchill, " Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

Are You Breathing?

Carrissa Pannuzzo, M.A., LMFT-T, LPC-T

Take a moment to notice what's going on in your body. What's your heart doing? How's your breathing? Are you calm inside or agitated? Checking in with our body can give us important information about what's going on inside us physically and emotionally. When you notice a higher heart rate, shorter breathing, and maybe muscle tension or a nervous stomach, take some deep belly breaths to calm yourself. Deep breathing helps us regulate ourselves, which changes our heart rate and body response and enables our mind to work more clearly.

Relationship Indicators

Lynda Savage, M.S., LMFT, LPC

There are many indicators of friendship or family relationships going bad. Here are a few: 1. The goodness is gone. 2. There is an abundance of criticism. 3. It is all about the other person. However, when things are not satisfactory in friendship or family, these same indicators in reverse offer hope: 1. The habit of goodness and prayer is coming back. 2. Criticism is being replaced with each person owning their part of difficulties and saying so. 3. People share interest and responsibility in and with each other. It’s always good to look in the mirror to see if you are cultivating the former or the latter. Invite Jesus in to exactly where you are with what you see.

Wisdom