The Different Roads Of Thinking

I have been working in the field of mental health for several years and throughout my experience I witness more and more the power our minds and our thoughts truly have.  I am in awe each day at how truly powerful our thoughts affect almost every part of our lives. The power and magnitude one thought can have and the direction it can take one person on is truly astounding. How one thought can directly influence our perceptions, our emotional states and the paths in life we choose to take. It can take one experience, one comment, one person to evoke a thought which then evokes a feeling or belief and in turn influences our actions. The power of our thoughts can guide us down a road of strength, empowerment and positivity or down a road of despair, defeat and self destruction. Often times we overlook and minimize the magnitude of just how powerful our minds and thoughts truly are.

 

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A lot of the work I do is helping people to identify the positive as well as negative thoughts they feed and give power to each and every day. To identify how their thoughts affect them in multiple areas of their lives. Often times we don’t realize we have the power and strength to choose which mental road we travel down. To often we are fueled by impulse and reaction that we don’t stop and think to question which road we choose to travel down. Do we travel the roads which are helpful with positive thoughts and solutions or do we find ourselves lost and wondering down the road of negative and unhealthy thinking, feeling lost, fearful and trapped?

Listed below are some of the different roads of wrong thinking that have some of the deepest impact, that a lot of people find themselves lost in.

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1.) The Road of Fear and Anxiety: “Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.” 
― Jim Morrison.

Fear and anxiety have the power to stop many people in their tracks and leave them feeling confused, scared and looking for a way out. Fear can get in our minds and hold us back from where we are meant to go and our destiny. How often have you found yourself trapped in fear and anxiety? Better yet how often did you come to find out that the fear and anxiety was caused by being wrapped up in what you thought would or could happen and not in what was actually the reality of what was happening. Fear and Anxiety can be a sign that there are thoughts and feelings that we are not paying attention to. It can be a signal or an alert that something is going on within us that needs to be addressed. So often fear and anxiety is something that we try to block, numb or not look at because it can feel too overwhelming. The road of fear and anxiety can take people into a dark isolating place or lead them to seek alternative escapes. That is why when fear or anxiety comes up it is best to take time out so you can physically calm down. A moment to ask yourself, what do I need to look at? What is triggering my reaction at this moment? What evidence do I have that my fears or anxieties are true? There is an alternative road to choose and that is the road of introspection and curiosity. To feel safe enough to work through fear and anxiety instead of running away from it can help people realize that they don’t have to succumb to the fears and anxiety they experience. It’s impossible to think clearly when you’re flooded with fear or anxiety. When we can work through fear, when we can face anxiety, then we can work to find ways to cope and help manage anxiety the more confidence begins to develop in ourselves and in our ability to move forward and face the things in life we once avoided.

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2.) The road of doubt and lack of trust: “When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.” ~Honore de Balzac 

How often does self doubt and an inability to trust ones self affect the way you look at making decisions and how you feel about your capabilities? For many people their inability to trust in themselves can create distress and self doubt. The voice of self doubt can be an overpowering voice that has the power to hold you back.  They create thoughts and feelings that keep people from going after things in life, seizing opportunities and keep them from fulfilling their potential. I see many clients struggle with doubting themselves and who they are and in turn have gone down a road of self sabotage, avoidance and running away when they are unsure of people, places and opportunities. Often times people seek outside sources for validation and reassurance, hoping someone else will know what we should do or the decisions we should make. When you doubt yourself it further affirms the lack of trust and confidence in yourself. That is why a lot of the work I do with clients is to identify the messages sent to them about who they are and their capabilities. Whose voice is truly speaking to them and what messages are  influencing and guiding the road they embark on? The more you can take a moment, stop and pay attention to what voice you are listening to, the more you can one day separate the voices of others from your own voice within. Once we can gain awareness and trust in our intuition, identify what it is  telling you and where it is leading you then you can begin to go down the road of confidence and assuredness of who you are and the decisions you make.

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3.) The Road of Victimization- “How would your life be different if…You stopped validating your victim mentality? Let today be the day…You shake off yourself defeating drama and embrace your innate ability to recover and achieve.”~ Steve Maraboli

One of the biggest types of thinking that I see hold people back is victimization. The belief and feeling that no one understands you or what you have been through. The fear that after so much pain if you open yourself up to the world or people you will get hurt. The belief that you have no control over your life. This mentality allows room to dwell in sadness and self pity which untimely leads to no where. When we identify ourselves with a victim mentality we allow that to be our identify and box us in. In many cases the experiences people have had carry so much pain and torment it is hard to fathom how anyone could ever understand so we limit ourselves with people and in life. In turn this type of thinking can become a defense mechanism that feels safe and secure. There comes a point however when too many walls are built and defenses are up that we are blinded to see that there are people who care enough to want to support and lift us up. I heard an amazing quote that resonated very strongly with me, ” The victim mindset will tell you all the reasons why you cannot. A victor mindset tells you all the reasons you can.” – Ben Prescott. When we identify  ourselves as a victim and live in fear it leaves room for resentment, anger or bitterness to take over. We give power to the things that hurt us. In time if we allow ourselves to process, to face and to work to heal from the people, places and circumstances that wounded us then the path becomes much more clearer. We have the ability to create a new story, a new role, a new mindset a chance to ask ourselves, Do I walk down the path of continued victimization or do I walk down the path where I now can become the victor from my pain. To choose the path of a victor is to choose a path that leads to hope, healing and freedom.

Listed above is just a few of the many different ways our thought process and ways of coping influence our perceptions, thoughts and actions. It starts with awareness and taking one small step towards change at a time, a step towards new behaviors, new actions, new thought processes and a step towards a new path. Once there is awareness then we can work to find compassion for ourselves, strength, hope and work to walk towards the roads of healing and positive thinking.

To say or not to say…. That is the question?

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” 

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Working in the field of addiction and eating disorders, as well as being in eating disorder recovery myself, I have experienced and witnessed first hand the lack of knowledge and understanding many people have about eating disorders. 30 million people in the U.S. will suffer from a diagnosable eating disorder during their lifetime, while many more cases go unreported. Eating disorders are often suffered in silence and while there is a sterotypical idea of how someone with an eating disorder should look or act, that is simply not the case. Anyone and I mean anyone can suffer from an eating disorder. No matter the age, race or gender, eating disorders do not discriminate. It is important to not only be aware of signs to look for when you suspect someone in your life may be suffering from an eating disorder but also to be aware of the sensitive nature of this disease. With any form of recovery there will be good, positive days and then there will be dark challenging days. Often times certain words or statements will be enough to send someone who struggles into the dark tangled web of negative thoughts in their head. This is why education and awareness is so important. It is not the fault of those who do not understand, supporting someone with an ED can be difficult and frustrating, it is hard to watch people hurt themselves and know you can only do so much about it. This is why it is so important to educate and increase awareness for those who may not be able to understand the power of this disease. To help people gain understanding is where true change can occur.

“Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t so.”

Listed below are some things you should not say to someone with an eating disorder-

1.) You look healthy– To many people this seems like a very normal, harmless comment often times meant to be supportive but to someone who is struggling with an eating disorder this comment can be one of the most triggering. The eating disorder mind has a way of turning many comments and twisting them into something negative. The ED mind hears “healthy” and associates that with being fat, being like everyone else, being normal or someone noticing a change in their appearance. Being called healthy can send someone spiraling downhill into anxiety, depression or trigger them to engage in their ED behavior. When in recovery from an eating disorder it is a very sensitive time, people are challenging themselves in many ways and if they feel their body changes are noticeable to others it can re-trigger those negative ED thoughts back in a very strong way. I advice many people I work with to not comment on the weight or appearance of their loved ones and focus on discussing inward positive emotional changes instead.

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2. Comments about food– Another big trigger that can effect someone with an eating disorder is when someone else comments on their food, labels their foods as healthy or unhealthy or comments on the amount of food someone is eating. For someone struggling with an eating disorder they are already hyper vigilant about what they eat and are trying to break away from stringent rules or judgments on food. For someone trying to overcome their eating disorder, eating in front of people is a huge milestone in itself, eating in front of others is a common fear for someone struggling. Commenting on what they eat or how they eat only puts the hyper focus and fear of eating back into action. Try to refrain from commenting and instead enjoy the company of who you are with and be in the present moment.

3. Why don’t you just eat?– This comment can be very hurtful to someone struggling with an eating disorder, if eating disorder were as simple as just starting to eat or stopping when full then this wouldn’t be the deadly disease that it is. Anorexia is the number 1 cause of death among all mental health issues. Eating disorders like any other mental illness or physical illness are not a choice, no one chooses to go down the eating disorder path. It is an all consuming disease that takes over someones life. I educate people that I come across that eating disorders are more than just about the food or appearance. There is often a deep wound or pain often times eating disorders become a way to cope with many different aspects of life. Try and be supportive and ask helpful questions to gain understanding of someone who may be struggling.

4.Commenting and criticizing your own weight- Those who are struggling with their eating disorder are constantly judging and criticizing their own appearance so to be around someone who is picking themselves apart only emphasizes the negative thoughts and enforces them in the ED mind. It is best to be kind to ourselves in thought and in action, one negative thought or comment feeds off another.

5. Don’t use or talk about numbers or calories-–  This is one of the worst things you can do to someone with an ED. Many times someone with an eating disorder is trying to stop behaviors, stop the obsession of the scale, stop the focus on a dress size or weight and calorie counting. To be around someone who brings that focus and attention back to numbers will only trigger someone trying to avoid those behaviors. 

6. You don’t look like you are someone who would have an eating disorder– This comment goes hand in hand with rule #1, do not talk about someone else’s appearance. Like I stated earlier eating disorders can affect anyone. Eating disorders come in many forms and the majority of sufferers are not the stereotypical image we have of a severely underweight emaciated person. Anorexia only represents 10% of eating disorders. Bulimia affects three times as many people who struggle with ED and binge eating has the highest incidence. Many times many people can experience traits of different eating disorder behaviors going back and forth from restricting, binging, purging or over exercising. When someone who struggles hears they don’t look like they have an eating disorder the ED mind twists and distorts this comment to mean that they don’t look sick enough, that they don’t need help. There is no one way to look, to be struggling with an eating disorder and by increasing awareness this is how we challenge the stereotype. 

 

These are a few key points to keep in mind when you are speaking with or supporting someone who struggles with an eating disorder. Remember to try and be supportive, instead of focusing on food or appearance focus on how they are doing, how they are feeling and ask them how you can best support them.

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The Importance Of Emotional Needs

From the day we are born we have physical needs. We are taught how to navigate through the world. From the day are born we also have emotional needs. As babies we cry and long to be held, to be comforted and to be loved.  Our cries as children was the first way we learned how to as for our emotional and physical needs to be met. As we grow older however we forget how to identify or ask for our emotional needs to be met. How can we ask for them if we don’t know what they are?  Some examples of our emotional needs are to feel accepted, appreciated, important, valued, loved or respected. When it feels like most of our emotional needs are being met they become “unmet emotional needs.”

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John Powell, author of Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?, believes that unmet emotional needs are one of the two major causes of anxiety. He says the other is supercharged repressed emotions. Emotional needs affect us more than we realize. They stem from childhood to adulthood. We learn from our caregivers how to express or ask for our needs to be met. If in our families needs were never expressed then it will make it difficult in adulthood to be able to identify what our needs are let alone express them. The importance of if our needs have been met throughout our life can often be something we are not aware of, however unmet emotional needs and an inability to identify or ask for them can turn into a negative cycle. If one grows up not understanding how to identify or ask for their needs to be met it will translate into their adult relationships.

I have often times heard people say “isn’t it selfish to ask someone to meet my needs”? My response is, it is never selfish to healthily communicate to someone how they can make you or your relationship better. It is the responsibility of the other person to decide if they choose to meet your needs. All we can do is take responsibility for oursevles and our responses, not the responses of others. If we hold in our needs they will fester and possibly grow into anger or resentment. It can also lead us to look for other external factors to get our needs met.

When What You Say and Do Is Not In Sync With What You Feel

Some Ways We Try to Compensate for Our Unmet Emotional Needs

By managing/controlling/manipulating others

By feeling superior to them.

By seeking status, money, fame.

By competing and trying to be the fastest, the smartest, the best, etc.

By keeping all our emotions inside and never voicing them

By isolating from others

By turning to food, drugs or alcohol to comfort ourselves or deal with uncomfortable emotions

By reacting with passive aggressiveness or hostility

By people pleasing

We do these things to try and make ourselves feel ok, to feel better, to be enough. They are a temporary band aid to a wound that has yet to heal. When we behave in ways that compensate rather than address the issue we are utilziing unhealthy ways of coping. In order to feel emotionally fullfilled we must utilize healthy coping skills and it all starts with identifying what your emotional needs are and then finding ways to ask for them. You hold the key to emotional freedom.

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