Communication Skills: Validation

We’re going to go back to basics this month, and I’m going to cover a couple aspects of communication. These will be sweet and to the point, and hopefully a good reminder of basic skills that can support relationships.

I believe that validation is one of the most important skills to support any type of relationship. So often, we just need to be sure that another person understands where we are coming from.

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Saying No

Do you struggle saying no? Find yourself with a lot of things piling up on your plate, none of which are things you are actually excited about? Are you feeling burned out?

Saying no can be a really challenging skill for a lot of people. Maybe you think of yourself as a people pleaser; maybe you underestimate the energy and time of your various commitments until it is too late; maybe the thought of missing out on something is enough to keep you saying yes to everything. You might find yourself feeling guilty after saying no, or ruminating over how others are perceiving your response.

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Shame Series III: Empathic Connection

Building off of the last blog on the different types of shame shields, I want to share a bit about why these shields don’t serve us in the long run. Shame is painful; it is isolating; and it is universal. Shame is not something that is often talked about in even the closest of relationships; when I work with my clients on shame, it is after we have established a solid rapport and it is rarely brought to the table by clients- “Hey, I have an idea- let’s talk about my deep, dark shame!”. Yeah, that’s typically not happening. Because shame is rooted in this core experience that “I am flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging”, we are often driven to avoid connection in response to shame.

“I am bad” → “I do not want others to find out that I am bad” or “I will be rejected if I show that I am bad” → shields. Unfortunately, this cycle builds on itself. This cycle assumes that the experience of “I am bad and unworthy” is true! Shame begets shame. So what reduces shame? Empathic connection.

Unlike the shame shields, empathic connection goes head to head with shame and serves as an antidote. When you share your experience of shame with a trusted person (very, very important- not everyone is a safe person with whom you can share) and are met with empathy, that deep down belief that you are not lovable or worthy because of your flaws is shattered. The belief that you are unlovable and unworthy cannot persist in that moment when you, flaws and all, are being met with love and belonging from another person. Empathic connection teaches us that we are lovable, we are worthy, and we do belong.

Now, one instance of empathic connection does not forever drive the experience of shame from your life. But, the more you reach for empathic connections over shame shields, the more that experience of shame is eroded. You may begin to recognize the earliest signs of shame, and begin to reach for connection before those trusty shields. Those experiences of being unworthy of love and belonging will very likely show up again, but you have had practice in turning to another in these painful moments and being embraced, literally or figuratively; and that embrace reminds you that your flaws mean you are flawed, but do not mean you are unworthy.

Perhaps you have had this experience before; sharing your shame with a trusted confidant and feeling that person’s love and acceptance envelope you in a way that shouts “You belong! You are not perfect, and you belong and are loved just as you are!”. Perhaps you have not had this experience- maybe you have never been able to let down your shield; maybe your attempts at letting down your shield were met only by others putting up their own. But can you imagine? Can you imagine this felt experience of belonging and being loved when your shame is telling you that those very experiences are unattainable for you?

This. This is how we combat shame. The shields protect us from the sting of the shame in the moment, but ultimately reinforce the voice of shame. Empathic connection turns the voice of shame on its head, and declares “I am worthy. I am lovable, and I do belong.”

Shame Series: The Self-Conscious Emotions

I’m on a shame kick. And by shame kick, I mean that I am trying to dive into the information and research and interventions focused on shame. Shame is an emotion that I see time and time again with clients; even though it is rarely the “identified problem” when a client first reaches out to me. A lot of times, shame doesn’t even get named by the client until we’ve established a real rapport. Shame is hard to touch, it is hard to look at, it is hard to feel. It would be much, much easier to leave shame covered and hidden and work on the other things that don’t feel quite as scary. But, that is not me serving the best interest of my clients. I’ll be doing a “shame series” here on the blog- if you have any of your own questions, let me know!

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A (belated) Valentine's Blog

In honor of Valentine’s Day (last week), I’m dedicating this post to the 5 Love Languages. I’ve shared that I have been trained in EFT, and this is the approach I am grounded in when working with couples. However, I like the 5 Love Languages. I think it has good information with accessible language, that can really help shift perspective and increase understanding in a relationship. I’ve noticed the 5 Love Languages being shared and discussed in lots of non-clinical settings, but just in case it is new to you, I’ll start off by going over the five types.

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