The sheer nature of boss-employee relationship, regardless of how laid-back it might be, guarantees that there will be at least some friction and tension. The boss, in essence, needs you to do some work for them and has a spectrum of tools to use in getting what they want out of you. This will always cause strain, that’s just how it is. Work-related stress falls under the top five life pressures for the majority of working people. Read more “Difficult Bosses: A Man’s Survival Guide”
According to a highly regarded study, one in six boys in the U.S. will experience sexual abuse before turning 18. Interestingly, the issue has long remained invisible due to societal myths about male sexual abuse and cultural “norms” around masculinity. Sexual victimization is often branded as a “women’s issue.” And it is! But, it is a men’s issue too. Ignoring the male side of sexual victimization leaves American society (and elsewhere) unable to comprehend the magnitude of male childhood sexual abuse. Read more “How To Support A Male Survivor Of Child Sexual Abuse”
You might be saying, “duh” right now that pets can help you with mindfulness and loneliness. Or, maybe the connection isn’t as clear to you yet. Have you owned a pet before? How did your pet make you feel? If you have had one, you probably remember the times you were doing something and then had to completely shift your focus because your pet did x, y or z. Or, the times when you were running around the house, then stopped to hang out with your pet because it just felt good for a minute (or… a mindful moment). See what we did there?
Pets help us shift our focus, sometimes for the good, and sometimes for the “not so good” like when you have to clean up a mess. Yet, either way, they can take our attention from our heads to our hearts and that unconditional love they give (except for a few swarmy cats perhaps!) is a trait humans should be aiming for each day. Read more “Pets Can Help You With Mindfulness (And Loneliness)”
You have a space inside from which you are able to understand the world properly and react to everything that happens to you in a healthy way. Only from that space are you able to truly be yourself and connect with the people around you. That space is called the “Window of Tolerance.”
Understanding the Window of Tolerance
We all have that natural state of homeostasis and balance where we feel relaxed and in control. It is also from this place which we can react and adapt to our environment without effort. In the Window of Tolerance, we feel calm, grounded, contained, alert, safe and present. It’s the comfort zone in which we have the ability to self-soothe and self-regulate our emotional state.
During our daily life it’s normal to come across various stress factors that interfere with our balance, so we end up experiencing either hyper- or hypo-arousal. When we experience hyper-arousal the response activated is Fight or Flight.
In this state of arousal, outside our Window of Tolerance, we can experience:
- intense reactions
- lack of emotional safety
- hyper vigilance
- intrusive imagery
- obsessive compulsive thoughts and behavior
- emotional outbursts
- chaotic responses
- the feeling of being ungrounded
- the feeling of being overwhelmed
- physical and emotional aggression and even rage
In the state of hypo-arousal outside of our Window of Tolerance, we can experience:
- a separation from self
- feelings and emotions
- the feeling of being disconnected and not present
- no display of emotions
- auto-pilot responses
- memory loss
- feign death response
- disabled cognitive processing
- decreased reactions to external stimuli
- difficulty in engaging coping resources
- low levels of energy
- not feeling like we are present
- not feeling like ourselves
Why is it important to be aware of your own Window of Tolerance?
Understanding the way we function is the only way we can take the next step towards a more balanced life. And this will also increase the quality of our lives. It’s important to be aware of your own Window of Tolerance in order to fully understand who you are and how you function. Only then will you be able to take the next step and improve this window in order to gain your optimal state of balance. This gives you the space you need in order to process correctly the information you receive, adapt optimally to your environment and provide the best response to each stimuli you encounter.
It’s obvious that every time you step out of your Window of Tolerance the amount of energy you are consuming just to adapt and respond to your environment is much higher. This energy must be taken from somewhere so after a state of hyper- or hypo-arousal you might feel tired, hungry, sleepy or numb. If you stay in those states for too long you might even notice that you develop certain physical symptoms due to this psychological distress.
Can we widen our own Window of Tolerance?
Widening the window of tolerance provides psychological flexibility. First of all, there are certain processes that need you to be in your window of tolerance in order to be able to take place properly. One important example is learning. If you are in a balanced state, the information you receive can be fully integrated. The brain needs this state of balance in order to receive and process information properly. Our social interactions are highly affected by our position in relation to our window of tolerance. The frustration that we experience every time we step out of this comfort zone can remain with us for a long period of time.
Being aware of your own window of tolerance should help you understand and respect the window of tolerance of those around you. Being more mindful of their balance will make you a more understanding and supportive person.
What interferes with your Window of Tolerance?
In order to improve your window of tolerance you must first understand what interferes and decreases that area for you. Each and every person has a different space in which they can self-soothe and self-regulate their emotional state. So, it’s important to identify your own history and way of functioning.
You might find yourself trapped in cognitive patterns that decrease your window of tolerance. You might have experienced profound trauma that you carry with you each and every day. Every time something triggers your traumatic memory you will become overwhelmed and step out of your window of tolerance. People are affected by different stress factors so it’s important to learn which of those factors apply to you.
How can you improve your Window of Tolerance?
Even if at the moment, your Window of Tolerance is not big enough and you can’t function properly and respond to your environment as you would want to, there are ways to improve it.
The first step is to understand what shaped you, which past experiences make you react in a certain way to certain stimuli. A therapist can help you in the process of identifying the main events that shaped your response to certain stimuli and that can be easily triggered. Noteworthy is the fact that the most important events you should identify in this journey are traumatic ones. By understanding your trauma you will be able to identify what triggers certain responses during your daily life.
Tools for coming back to your Window of Tolerance
For example, every time you feel you’ve stepped out of your optimal state of arousal, there are tools you can use in order to rebalance yourself. Especially relevant is the fact that you can acknowledge you are not functioning properly. And, this is the first and most important step for changing your current state. Also, you can ask yourself if the feelings you are experiencing are helpful. And if they are not, you can choose to feel from now on (or not). Furthermore, you can think about similar situations and what helped you change your perspective then.
Some tools that you can use in order to rebalance yourself are meditation, mindfulness, music, practicing a hobby or a sport. Make sure that you get enough rest and that you have a healthy diet. These are important areas of your life that influence your mental and emotional balance.
It’s important to talk about the things you are experiencing with someone that can properly help you. In therapy you can fully look at the triggers that make you step out of your window of tolerance and reprocess the memories that left you with those triggers, which will make them lose their power.
Medicaid is one of the biggest insurance providers for young and adult men in the Denver area.
It provides medical and mental health coverage for those who are eligible based on their income. Counseling can be pushed out of the budget when you are just trying to make ends meet. And, perhaps that is something that we can discuss together in counseling – what to do when life is stressful due to money. It can cause so many challenges and can even be simultaneously damaging your self-esteem. It might also be preventing medical care of other kinds. Don’t let taking care of your mental health come last.
Here at Stephen Rodgers Counseling, we are excited to be one of the a Medicaid provider for the County of Denver.
We provide high quality, evidence based and personalized counseling for men. Oftentimes at large mental health centers you might feel that you treated as just another name and number. Stephen Rodgers Counseling is different. Think of our practice as a boutique Medicaid provider specializing in personalized care.
The type we accept is Colorado Access Medicaid or ABC (http://coaccess.com/). With Colorado Access Medicaid, there is no co-pay. This is the best way to get covered for high quality therapy services.
Making an appointment to get high quality, personalized therapy services is as easy as 3 steps:
1) Have Colorado Access Medicaid
2) Make an appointment with our Medicaid specialist Mike Meltzer, LCSW
3) Start on the road to living the life you deserve
If you have Colorado Access Medicaid, making an appointment is easy and fast. Our Medicaid therapist is Mike Meltzer, LCSW and he is now accepting new clients. Read Mike’s bio here.
When you have been hurt by a family member or loved one, you can truly heal by seeing their point of view. “But they are wrong!” you might say to yourself. Or you might scream to yourself “I am F-ing RIGHT!!.” While putting up a fight might seem like the right and logical thing to do in the moment, it’s not always the best path in the long run. The first step you must take in this situation is to acknowledge and validate your own feelings about what is happening. Also consider if any past unresolved experiences are contributing to the current emotionally charged situation. Then, take a few slow, deep breaths.
Next, you can try this simple exercise when you have to see someone you have been in conflict with. You can heal by going with the flow and seeing the situation from their point of view. Let me explain…
Their Point of View is Actually Still a Point and a View
Understanding someone’s motives when they have hurt you is extremely difficult. Yet, for human growth, it is important to try to see from all angles. It takes a very strong person to do this, so kudos on trying at all. Most don’t. You’re ahead of the game already.
You see, every person is motivated (usually) by similar things: their basic needs, the need to feel loved, and the need to feel understood. We’re all humans after all… And, we live in a chaotic world where we really don’t know what’s next each day. Fear can oftentimes consume even the most put-together of us.
An Exercise in Perspective
In our counseling practice, my team and I use journaling as a way to self-reflect and work on our emotional responses. Journaling also helps us gain clarity and work on our goals. It also acts as a filter when we have angry thoughts, which can very much be the case when a loved one has “wronged us in our minds.”
Here is an exercise to try when you will be encountering the person who hurt you (perhaps repeatedly such as a relative at the holidays or someone in your workplace for example.).
First, Journal from Your Point of View, Then Theirs, Then Burn It
Write down the experience first from your side. You can include every little detail so that you get it out of your mind and onto the paper. Include the reasons why what they did (or didn’t do) hurt your soul. It’s okay to be self-indulgent here. This is your point of view, just get it all out. The paper is there to be your filter.
Next, (and this is an important part of the healing) challenge yourself to write down the same event from their point of view. This can be a stretch. It can be really hard to do. Especially when you feel you still are the victim in the situation (and perhaps rightly so!). Consider the human needs hierarchy, their past, their present and why on earth something may motivate them to react or act in the way they side. Write down their whole story.
Feel like you got both sides down? Okay. Now, get a metal waste bin or lay wet paper towels down in the sink. Get a match or lighter. Next step? Burn that motherfucker. Watch it burn and with it, you might find a little piece of pain burning away with it.
Healing from Practicing Perspective Exercises
Regularly practicing empathy and letting go in this way can really heal you heal from painful (and repeatedly painful) experiences with others. For example, many of us do not choose our family. Yes, there are friends we choose who become like family, however, most of us have family members who we wouldn’t necessarily choose to be around if we had the option. We usually still love them anyway.
How would it feel to put some differences aside and try to “burn away” the pain? How could you grow by writing down the other’s side’s point of view, stretching yourself to consider their perspective? We hope you’re nodding your head and saying, “yes… yes, this could really work.” It can and helps so much when it comes to mindfulness in your daily life and during stressful times like the holidays or company projects.
About Stephen Rodgers Counseling of Denver
Our Denver-based practice helps men gain back control in their lives. My team and I seek to focus on men’s issues as it relates to many areas of life. Our counseling team often works with men on organizing their lives, rebuilding relationships, focusing on growth, working through challenging problems, and of course, helping men see things from the other’s point of view for conflict resolution.
The sky’s the limit and you still have time in your life to make changes. If we’ve resonated with you, consider clicking below to schedule a counseling session with myself or a member of our talented and mindful therapy team. We hope you join us soon. We’re ready for you man.
A friend of mine recently went home for the holidays to discover some members telling him that “there is no more Aunt Carrie.” He grew up with Aunt Carrie from birth. Aunt Carrie was at every family holiday, his graduation, his wedding, everything.
Aunt Carrie and Uncle Mike had a divorce when they were in high school, but they still stayed friends and he still saw them together at holidays and events as they had two children that were my friend’s cousins from their marriage. “There is no more Aunt Carrie,” they told him, because she had recently moved in with a new boyfriend.
Family Changes Are Hard
Aunt Carrie also had a few other issues that came to light, including the fact that for all these years, her coca cola was laced with the vodka that she carried with her everywhere she went. Family secrets unearthed, family changes happening. My friend’s first thoughts were not even thoughts at all, they were confusion. They love Aunt Carrie.
In all reality, my friend will possibly not see her Aunt very often, possibly ever again, or who knows. You see, they live far apart to begin with and now she has moved even farther, and my friend may very well be the only person in the family to visit her along with her own children. My friend is experiencing family changes and they are hard.
How to Cope with Family Changes
There are other parts to family changes too. They can happen from a divorce like my friend, but they also happen in another way such as a new family member. This one, I personally understand. I recently had a child of my own and having a new baby and new family member is strange!! (Mind you, awesome, but strange!!)
There is a new person to consider in plans when it comes to, well, everything. Also, my relationships with my cousins and family members is different now. We’re not drinking quite as late or as much on special occasions. The language I use has changed. My priorities are different. Again, family changes.
Coping with change is a challenge, but both the most adept men and the most casual of us can thrive during change, even when it feels unnatural. First thing? Let go. Literally breathe it out. I often think about the book the Great Gatsby when I think of change. You see, the main character tries to recreate the past, exactly as it once was, in hopes that it will be the same. It will never be the same and in the end, he is consumed by his efforts. Try not to “Gatsby” yourself and accept these new family changes. In the end, the path of least resistance is usually best.
What Can You Change?
Nothing really. We can’t change anyone besides ourselves. We can gain understanding though and we can make sure we are drinking enough water, eating our vegetables and practicing mindfulness. Sometimes, when the mind is stressed, taking care of the body can help you regain focus. I recommend the Mood Food Clinic in Denver if you think diet might be something to take a look at in your life. Simple dietary changes affect the gut which directly affects the mind. This is being proven repeatedly in reputable scientific studies.
Counseling is the other piece. Men don’t have much acceptance in being able to talk about their problems. If we do, we tend to turn it into a joke or let it come out in anger or passive aggressiveness. It’s not “manly” to talk about your problems to your friends and family. We disagree. Talking and working out your problems man to man is a way to grow immensely. It actually makes you mentally and physically stronger. Taking care of emotions can even improve your immune system. And you might find yourself experiencing more “luck” on a regular basis because you’re more often a better version of yourself.
Counseling for Men
Our practice focuses specifically on men’s issues because let’s face it, we need a place to go to figure out complex problems, and there aren’t many. We work with mindfulness, encourage healthiness, and listen to what’s going on in your life so that you can be a better man. Perhaps one you are proud of, who knows when to say no and when to say yes. Maybe, just maybe this could the step you’ve needed, but didn’t know you did. If you’re ready to take a leap, try scheduling a session with one of our therapists at Stephen Rodgers Counseling of Denver.
In our previous blog “Attachment Styles and How We Relate to Others” we talked about four main ways in which we tend to form our relationships and try to satisfy our emotional needs
We also mentioned that attachment styles are something that we acquire in our childhood and mostly stick to it throughout our lives.
This post will dig deeper into what potential problems a non-secure attachment style can cause for our life and that of our partners, as well as why and how we can prevent or stop maladaptive behavior in romantic relationships.
Where is the problem?
Our attachments originate from our first attachment experience, that with our primary caretaker, usually our mothers. Following this relationship, we build on it over the course our formative years and add in different beliefs about the world and the people that surround us.
With time, we incorporate all our early experiences and form what we believe to be our own way of approaching others and needing them. Yet, the problem arises basically from the fact that, when we first acquired our attachment style, we had fairly shallow and necessarily limited understanding of the world. But we rarely revisit these deeply rooted feelings, ways and beliefs as adults.
So, if we grew up, for example, with our needs in childhood being inconsistently satisfied, or not at all, it is possible that we will form a worldview in which we, on one hand, have strong need for intimacy, but on the other, we strongly doubt that we are worth it.
In other words, the fact that our needs were unpredictably satisfied when we were growing up made us develop a profound feeling of our own inadequacy, of not being deserving of love and praise. We interpreted this situation as being our fault because we lack what was needed to receive the affection that we needed. And we hardly ever set our intention to address such conviction when we grow up – we just have an overwhelming feeling of not being good enough, while we also crave closeness and bond. We develop a preoccupied attachment style, and spend our relationships in an anxious and insatiable need for closeness that we never seem to satisfy to the fullest. This especially becomes a problem if we seek out a dismissive partner, which is often the case. Then our behavior could be, and often is, described as clingy, possessive, demanding of attention, and it is often what drives others away.
Or, if you grew up to be a dismissive-avoidant individual, you will most likely indulge in pseudo-independence, as you probably decided that “you don’t need anyone” as a way of coping with unsatisfied emotional needs as a child. You learned to shut down emotionally and to disconnect easily from others, often as a consequence of being or feeling abandoned by your caretaker(s). This might have worked for you at that moment and helped you cope with enormous pain of not being able to develop closeness with your mother or father figures, but such strategy prevents you from forming significant relationships and experience intimacy as an adult, robbing you of a very important aspect of life.
Fearful-avoidant attachment style is often developed in a household where the child could not count on his or her needs being met, even when it comes to the most basic ones. It is not uncommon that a fearful-avoidant adult survived a trauma as a child. Such person will realize the need for an intimate relationship with others and crave it, but also feel terrified of the possibility of being hurt. As a result, the romantic relationships that you will experience will be explosive, full of turmoil and stress, often described as passionate and wild, but basically highly unhealthy for everyone involved.
What to do about our non-secure attachment styles?
In short, as adults, we will tend to confirm our deep-seated and most commonly unconscious convictions of how interpersonal relationships should look like, and especially how romantic partners ought to interact. Unfortunately, if our attachment style is insecure, these beliefs will set a stage for countless troubles and heartbreaks. This is why it is important to determine our attachment style and to address any non-secure elements with a psychotherapist who will help you find your way through this maze.
Especially helpful for this kind of issue is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (or EMDR). For most of us, our memories begin with recollections of what had happened to us when we were somewhere around the age of 5. Yet, the relational trauma and the development of insecure attachment style mostly occurs even earlier in our childhood, when our memories are non-verbal and remain in the sphere of emotions. This is why EMDR is highly effective choice of treatment, as it mobilizes the brain’s adaptive information processing mechanisms and can, therefore, re-pattern our non-secure attachment style that was formed before our thinking became predominantly verbal.
By choosing to work on your attachment style with a psychotherapist, you can finally free yourself of your early experiences and your early understanding of the world, and liberate yourself to form authentic and meaningful intimate relationships.
You might already have noticed that many (if not all) of your significant romantic relationships tend to have something in common.
Your current and ex-partners all might be fairly different from each other in most of their characteristics, but there is probably at least one thing that they all share, and that is the way in which you relate to them.
Some relationships will work out and some won’t, but in all probability, you (and your partners as well) will have a tendency to behave, feel, and react in one specific manner. This relatively steady form of relating to our love partners is called attachment style.
Attachment style is something that is formed during our early childhood, and it is something that affects (maybe even dictates) how we will choose our partners, how those relationships will develop, and usually, how they will end.
This and our next blog post will explain what attachments styles are there, how they are formed and help you determine how you relate to others. After you get to understand yourself in your love life a bit better, we will also explain how destructive attachments can be mended with the help of psychotherapy so that you can love and relate to others free of unhealthy patterns in behavior and emotions.
What are Attachment Styles and How We Got Ours?
When we were children, we had certain experiences within our family, and everything that we experienced, either directly or indirectly, affected who we will become in our future relationships.
Our first taste of the world and others came when we were infants through the way in which our caregivers interacted with us. Human infants, similar to other mammals, are equipped with a range of behaviors that have a function to maintain physical proximity of the caregiver (usually mother in the first months of life), thus ensure protection, care, and support.
Babies cry, cling, search for, and do everything in their power to remain close to their mothers. This closeness needs to be not only physical, but also psychological, as the child’s emotional needs become almost equally important as biological ones. And mothers (or other primary caregivers) react in a certain way to their child, responding to their attempts to get attention they need in a certain way.
These dynamics develop our means of getting needs met which develops into stable attachment styles projecting themselves into adulthood (although it is not uncommon that attachment style changes over time, both towards more secure and towards insecure attachments).
Adulthood attachment styles, in essence, are manifested as the way in which we react to our emotional needs in a relationship, and how we try to meet those needs.
Based on our attachment style and that of our partner’s, we will most likely feel either confident and secure in our relationship or marriage, or we will feel insecure in a number of ways.
What follows is a brief overview of four attachment styles that we see in adults as well as children.
Four Attachment Styles
The basic dimensions of attachment, according to attachment theory, are avoidance and anxiety. These can be low or high in our relationship with others, and based on the combination of these dimensions we get the four attachment styles: secure (low avoidance and low anxiety), preoccupied (low avoidance but high anxiety), fearful-avoidant (high avoidance and high anxiety), and dismissing-avoidant (high avoidance but low anxiety). Apart from the secure model (which, fortunately, is found in approximately 60% of adults), the remaining three usually come with problems in emotional life.
A securely attached person is confident, and tends to be more satisfied with their relationship. They feel connected and close to their partner, but also have a need to allow themselves and their partner enough space and freedom. A securely attached person is independent, but in distress finds and offers comfort within the relationship. It is an ideal way of relating to others, with affection, intimacy, and healthy independence.
Preoccupied individuals have a burning need to be close to their partner as their anxiety is high to the point of emotional hunger. This is especially true in any stressful situation, when a preoccupied person will have a strong need to be constantly reassured of their partner’s affection. Yet, by being clingy, possessive, and highly demanding, they often drive the partner further away and the vicious cycle of insecurity and clingy-ness closes.
Fearful-avoidant persons experience high levels of ambivalence in their relationships, as they are afraid of both being both too close with and too separate from their partner. Such difficult position often results in true emotional outbursts, and their relationships tend to be chaotic, dramatic, with many break-ups and getting back together. In essence, a person with this attachment style will feel the need to be close to their partner, but will also believe that if you’re too close to someone, you are bound to be hurt and betrayed.
Finally, dismissing-avoidant individuals have a strong need for something that is only pseudo-independence. They distance themselves from their partners and tend to their inner world, disregarding the human need to be close to another person, which allows them to detach from their partners with ease and remain somewhat cold and composed in situations that would make others lose their cool. Such person will have difficulties forming meaningful relationships, as true relationship with another person demands certain level of bond and closeness.
These are just basic descriptions of four attachment styles and of their foundational characteristics. Every person is somewhere on the plane where anxiety and avoidance cross, and the exact nature of our attachment can usually be expressed as a level to which we are securely or insecurely attached, rather than us falling into a strict attachment style category. In order to understand how you relate to others, take this free online test that will help you determine your own attachment style and maybe get to know yourself in your love life a bit better:
Adding education to your practice can enhance it in many ways including new ways to treat your patients and an additional stream of revenue to finance your private practice.
If you are looking for a cost efficient way to get EMDRIA approved consultation hours near you, we welcome you to work with us for either individual or group sessions. Stephen Rodgers, LCSW is a EMDRIA approved consultant-in-training.
Offered at noon on Tuesdays and Fridays. Bring your lunch and talk EMDR! Space is limited.
This option allows you more flexibility and time focusing on your cases.
Consultation is a great way to deepen your application and understanding of EMDR. If you work with trauma and men you will find this consultation particularly helpful.
EMDR has been shown to be effective particular in cases of trauma, anxiety, depression and substance abuse. In our practice, we work specifically with men, young and adult, to help them “rewire” the past.
- We strive to provide the highest quality, personalized EMDRIA approved consultations.
- We aim to offer consultations at the most affordable price so that all may participate.
- We offer both individual and group coaching to accommodate your preferences.
- We respect your practice by allowing you to integrate our approach into your clinical style.
Stephen Rodgers Counseling is a practice of therapists who focus on men’s issues and trauma. Founded by Stephen Rodgers, LCSW, the growing collective includes Mike Meltzer, LCSW who works with individuals across the board. Both integrate mindfulness therapy into their work.
Our practice seeks to expand our professional offerings to our peers through EMDR consultations as well as by offering them at an affordable price. EMDR has been an enormous asset to the individuals we work with when it comes to coping with trauma. Thank you for your interest in EMDR and consultations. We are located conveniently in Cherry Creek. Please contact us to register for sessions. Call 720-295-4233 or click below.