By Melinda Brett on
6/8/2017 1:20 PM
By Melinda Brett on
9/16/2014 2:25 PM
I have been playing scrabble online. I love scrabble. I have found myself, however, getting very focused on trying to get the big points. Efforts to line up the “Z” on a triple letter space using the word “zebra” on a triple word space. As those of you who play scrabble know, that doesn’t happen very often. In the process, I note how many other words I could have used that would in the long run earn me a steady number of points.
So those of you who know me, know I am going to use this as an analogy, so here we go. How many times in our lives, do we spend our energy waiting for that big moment? That promotion, that vacation, that love affair, that time when our financial lives will be stable. In doing so, we miss all the small joys that happen every day. The kicker is that our sense of well-being is never satisfied by those big events. They are great, but they too, pass and we are on to the next.
We feel content and peaceful in our lives when we stay present in the NOW of our lives. Iyanla Vanzant wrote a book with one of my favorite titles. “In the Meantime” stressing that though we are always waiting for that big moment, in the meantime our lives are in session. Goals are great, but don’t miss the little things because the little things add up to define the quality of our lives.
What are the little things you appreciate in your life today?
By Melinda Brett on
7/19/2013 12:00 AM
“As long as habit and routine dictate the pattern of living, new dimensions of the soul will not emerge.”
-Henry Van Dyke
As a teenager and young adult I was bored frequently. I spent a lot of time running around looking for the next new thing or as I like to say today the next fix of entertainment that life could offer me. Today, as I’m much older and wiser (or so I like to think), I have actually come to rely on routines. I have a morning routine, a routine with my work schedule and an evening routine. My routines keep me on track. They allow me to take care of myself and offer me a way to keep my days feeling fairly productive and focused. My routines offer me the comfort of predictability that makes me feel safe.
My routines, however, can also really dull my spirit if I do not move out of them now and again. Last night was one of those nights. A girlfriend of mine and I went up to DC to have dinner with one of her friends and then off to a performance another one of her friends was holding. We had such a wonderful time. It was really fun to leave work in the middle of the afternoon, take the drive across the bridge, and become immersed in the different restaurants, styles, and sounds of a city steeped in a multicultural energy that was palpable.
As we were driving back I was reviewing the night. The food we ate, the people we met, the show we saw and the surroundings of DC. It was not just pleasurable, it was an experience. I got to expand my views based on my new experiences. I realized how important it was for my soul and mind’s growth. Experience and knowledge is what continues to broaden our experiences and make us feel that our lives are dynamic.
I might go back to DC for a weekend, or maybe plan a different trip. I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that it is really important for me to get out of my routine at frequent intervals. How about you? Have you gotten out of your routine lately?
By Melinda Brett on
7/18/2013 12:00 AM
“Promise me you’ll always remember you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
–Christopher Robin from Winnie the Pooh
Yesterday I wrote about who may benefit from counseling. Today I thought I would write about what counseling offers and the process itself.
I believe that counseling offers many things and often all at the same time. First and foremost it gives people a professional listener to speak with about their lives. Counselors are trained in active listening. What that means is that we can listen to not only the words you use but often can hear the meaning and emotion behind the words. We can help you clarify your thoughts and often can reflect back to you what you are saying so that you can hear it for yourself. Being truly heard can be incredibly therapeutic.
Counselors are also not friends or family in that we are not emotionally involved in a situation in your life. We can listen more objectively and do not have our own agendas to try and convince you to see our point or manipulate your behavior as often happens in our personal relationships. Counseling is also an environment where it really can be “all about you.” We don’t interrupt you or get you to then listen to our problems which often happen when we try to talk to our friends. We also can offer the time to fully explore your issues and examine it in as much depth as you would like. Counseling is also confidential and you don’t have to be concerned about anyone in your life or community “knowing your business.”
Counseling can also offer education and ideas for managing your issues. We can teach you how to relax, manage your mood, communicate more effectively and help you find a way to create the kind of life you want. We can work on deeper issues and bring some healing where there has been hurt, wounding or trauma.
Most importantly, however, I think the best counseling reminds you of how brave, strong and smart you already are. Sometimes, when we are feeling overwhelmed or thinking very negatively, we forget that we are already armed with many positive traits. Many life experiences that have taught us lessons are with us long before we become adults or begin the counseling process. Sometimes just having someone remind us that we really are capable of many things can be empowering. It is from a place of empowerment, not defeat, that we will make the changes we want to make. How has counseling helped you?
By Melinda Brett on
7/17/2013 12:00 AM
“Being in emotional pain is like having broken ribs. On the outside it looks like nothing’s wrong, but inside every breath hurts”
I have often been asked “who needs counseling?” My first response is “likely everyone at some point in their lives.” There are many reasons people cite for seeking counseling. Often times, there are as many reasons as people.
People may seek counseling because they are struggling with their own behavior. Many people get hooked on behaviors that are now causing them problems such as overeating, drugs and alcohol, spending too much, gambling, porn, and cutting. Sometimes people are struggling with their own feelings and overwhelmed with sadness, grief, worry and fear or a constantly changing mood.
Many people seek counseling because they are having problems in their relationships and interactions with other people. There are a host of issues including conflict, communication, jealousy, and hurt. These problems show up in all of our relationships including those we love, on our job, in our neighborhoods or on the street. Some people are told they need counseling and some even come to help another person.
At the end of the day, what really leads most of us into looking for help is emotional pain. We are hurting and we want to stop hurting. We often don’t know how to express that hurt or don’t have someone in our lives that understands. Maybe we have talked about it and are not getting any relief.
There has been a stigma to counseling for a long time. I am from the generation of “One Flew Over the Cookoos Nest” where people with mental illness were portrayed as crazy and insane and need to be locked up. We may have been raised in a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality and we may think or fear that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Most of all, we feel that if we seek counseling it means that there is something wrong with us.
None of that could be further from the truth. We are human beings that experience life and it affects us. We have an emotional response to life. Sometimes we have spent all of our energy being strong, that there is none left. We have the freedom today to not have to just accept our fate and hide our feelings. Today we get to learn and grow and we don’t have hide from ourselves or anyone else. What led you to seek counseling?
By Melinda Brett on
7/16/2013 12:00 AM
In the end what matters most is:
How well did you live
How well did you love
How well did you learn to let go
Last week, out of the blue, my left hand started hurting. It was really painful. It felt like every bone in my hand was broken. Just touching it hurt. I lasted a couple of days before I remembered to look up hand problems in one my favorite books, You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise Hayes. She said that problems in your hand have to do with grasping and letting go.
I remember when I was first introduced to the healing concept of “letting go.” I was twenty six years old, and once again, trying to control the behavior of another person. They were in pain and I wanted them to do what I was seeing as the obvious solution. They ignored me and I continued to try to control them.
What drove my controlling behavior were three basic tenants of belief. The first was that I honestly believed that I knew what was best for them. The second was that I was terrified of what might happen and believed I could prevent it and the third was that I believed pain was bad. When someone suggested that I “let go” I honestly thought they were stark raving mad.
Today I have learned that those three belief systems were summarily wrong. I do not know what’s best for someone else because I have no idea what their journey in life is to be. I also have learned that I am not powerful enough, though I continue to try sometimes, to prevent people from experiencing the consequences of their actions. Third, and most importantly, I do not believe today that pain is bad. My greatest growth has come from being in terrible emotional pain.
After looking at the book, I thought about what I was wrestling with grasping and letting go of in my life. The battle I seem to usually have is one of wanting to let go and then picking up the worry and fretting again and then work on letting go again. It wasn’t hard for me to identify some things I was indeed struggling to let go. I spent the day really working on letting them go. Figuratively and literally opening my hand up and releasing them to the flow of the universe. As I sit writing this, my hand no longer hurts.
What in your life are you holding on to that really is out of your control? What are you afraid of? What have been your experiences in using the powerful tool of “letting go?”
By Melinda Brett on
7/11/2013 12:00 AM
I made decisions that I regret, and I took them as learning experiences... I'm human, not perfect, like anybody else.
Human beings go through many stages of development and each of us takes time to learn the important lessons we need to have in order to reach the next level. When we are 3 we become aware of ourselves and are learning that behavior has consequences. In order to figure out their place in the world and how things work, children may test their parents by refusing to do something, or making up lies. This does not make them bad, just normal.
When we are an adolescent we want to be independent from our parents and close to our friends. As a young person we see time as unlimited and we can be more focused on our own needs than those around us. You may feel defined in your adult life by choices you made at this time of your life. However, this is also just a stage of development and feeling bad about yourself because of the stupid things you did doesn’t do anything to change what happened, and only becomes a burden to carry around in your adult life.
We make lots of decisions during these stages. When we move through a stage and learn from our mistakes and hopefully we try not to make the same bad decisions again. As I grew up and moved through each decade of my life, I kept expecting to stop making mistakes. I figured I’d get to a point where I’d learned all my lessons and now could avoid making bad decisions. I would reach perfection. Well, it hasn’t happened yet.
If a person holds on to each bad choice as a mark against them, then the regret, shame, and guilt can get overwhelming. However, if we look at mistakes as a natural part of the learning experience, then we can truly learn from them instead of just feeling bad about decisions that led to consequences we didn’t like. Making bad decisions and having mistakes in your life does not make you a bad person, it makes you human.
By Melinda Brett on
7/10/2013 12:00 AM
It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.
If happiness is a state of well being that is characterized by positive feelings, then it is a state of mind rather than a thing that can be found. I always tell people the mind is a powerful thing and it can be used for good or evil.
You come home from work and you don’t feel good. In fact you are thinking negative thoughts about things that happened in your day. Maybe you still have a lot to do at home and don’t feel like doing it. Imagine that I have a secret phone booth that you can step in, press a button, and when you step out, you instantly forget about your day and think about something you really want to do.
Try to be aware of the big picture. Remember, human beings are animals that have some basic needs that have to be met in order for them to operate well. Assess your body. You feel some pain behind your eyes or your neck is stiff. You could have low blood sugar because you have not eaten. You may be dehydrated.
Once you have taken care of your basic needs, tell yourself to do something and be positive about it. You may need to cook dinner and feel it is a chore. Tell yourself that you will enjoy it. Put some comfortable clothes on, get things started, and put on some music. Decide that you will be in a good mood and sing along to the songs.
It is really up to you to create the environment that will allow you to feel happy. If you make the effort and practice it you can get really good at it.
10 ways to make yourself happier according to Psychology Today.
- Be with others who make you smile.
- Hold on to your values.
- Accept the good.
- Imagine the best.
- Do things you love.
- Find purpose.
- Listen to your heart.
- Push yourself, not others.
- Be open to change.
- Bask in the simple pleasures.
By Melinda Brett on
7/9/2013 12:00 AM
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.
Most of us really love routine. We can put our mind on cruise control and go through most of our daily tasks; wake up, put coffee on, let the dog outside, and on it goes until we’re driving to work and don’t remember what we passed, because we are still on the automatic setting. This is helpful to us in that we don’t have to waste a lot of energy thinking about what to do. It can also become more than simple routine and become something we’re unable to change.
How is this bad? Well, when life around you changes and you are unable to find your way anymore, you end up mourning the loss and cannot see anything else. Or, when you know you need to change something and are afraid to do it, because you don’t want change, you end up continuing in an unhealthy direction. I’ve had people say very clearly that something in their lives is “killing them” and they don’t know how they can continue. However, despite the fact that they have no problem describing how awful their life is now, they will not make change.
What happens to these people is that they continue on until something drastic happens to them. They believe it is out of their control, and it causes them to change. Other times they end up getting sick as their unhappiness and stress weakens their immune system.
Take a deep breath, and ask yourself what you are so afraid of. If you can name it, it is then something you can begin to manage. Talking about it to someone who can understand and help you to accept what is real and help you sort out what is going on with you will help you to begin the journey of change.
By Melinda Brett on
6/20/2013 12:00 AM
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”
How much we limit ourselves!! before we have even tried something. One of the topics that is often explored in counseling is our self concept, essentially how we see ourselves. So many times, we develop ideas of who we are by the accomplishments or failures in our lives.
One of the toughest things to hear is that people judge themselves by what their life experience has thus shown itself to be. The problem is that we are all inherently limited by our own experiences. I have yet to meet a person that has experienced everything that life can offer. What we do though is take what we have experienced and generalize it to the whole.
The child that didn’t get a piece in the art show decides they are not artistic. The student that doesn’t earn A's decides they are not intelligent. The girl who doesn’t get asked to the prom decides she is unlovable.
In my work with people with overeating disorders one of the common views is that they see themselves as not athletic. When I ask what their experience has been with athletics they usually mention one or two team sports and running. If they have deemed themselves unsuccessful at these, they have then concluded that they are not athletic. That is a very limited view of athletic prowess and yet they have avoided physical activity because of not feeling they excelled during those few experiences. When I asked if they have ever been hiking, or canoeing, or dancing or biking they usually admit they have never tried.
How often do we hold ourselves back from trying new things because we have already decided we would not be good or successful. How much change could we create in our lives if we believed that we just haven’t found the right thing…yet?
By Melinda Brett on
6/19/2013 12:00 AM
“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he is afraid?’ ‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.”
-George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones.
I was having a great weekend when Saturday I looked down at my phone and saw that my mother had called. I called her back to have her tell me that my sister was in a biking accident though my mother didn’t have a lot of details. I immediately went to the worst case scenario of my sister dying. That’s the truth. I then found myself awash in panic. I tried to call my sister but got her voice mail. I sent my brother- in -law a text but received no response. She lives in California and suddenly that felt further away than it ever has. That is fear. It’s an emotion that is both intolerable and paralyzing all at the same time.
When I think about situations that have caused that level of panic, it is always when I am truly faced with the unknown in which I am completely powerless. I find myself standing on that brink of my worst nightmares coming true and yet nothing in reality is actually happening.
Bravery often carries the connotation of great battles and heroic conquests. When I think of bravery, I think of facing my greatest enemy, my own mind and my own demons. I was confronted again with that this weekend. I was confronted with a possibility of something happening that my mind decided would be intolerable. I wanted to do something and yet there was not an action in that moment that made any sense. I did not have enough information and I was forced to have to find a way to cope.
My bravery came in tapping into the tools I’ve learned and settling myself down. Although still concerned, once the panic subsided I was able to think rationally. I knew that if my sister was in a life threatening situation I would be told. I had made the phone calls and left the message that I could come to California if she needed me. I knew my worrying was not going to better the situation. My bravery was demonstrated in the moment that I was able to sit still.
My sister is very banged up but will heal and be well with no lasting concerns. I, however, will likely need to be brave again in the face of my fears.
By Melinda Brett on
6/18/2013 12:00 AM
“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”
I spent many years feeling both lonely and uncomfortable with myself. I would have told you, however, that they were two very different things. I was lonely because I didn’t have the people, places or things in my life that I wanted. I was uncomfortable because I was filled with self loathing. This quote represents one of the “truths” I have come to understand. My true loneliness came from being uncomfortable with myself.
My discomfort stemmed from a pervasive focus of what was wrong. Yes, I could easily tell you how things around me were wrong, but what I had a hard time really admitting was that I believed I was wrong. I spent so much time focused on everything about me that I judged as inadequate. I could make a whole day out of picking myself apart with such harshness. That action of deeming ourselves as damaged is what today I call self abandonment. We abandon ourselves with judgment and meanness.
True loneliness, the loneliness that is so deep it is palpable, stems from us abandoning ourselves. This is what I believe Mark Twain was talking about. When we are not at home with ourselves and who we are, warts and all, we feel emotionally, spiritually and even physically lonely.
Today when I feel lonely, my peace lies in coming back to accepting myself and by that I mean accepting all of who I am, not just the parts I deem acceptable at the time. How often do we describe the feelings of disconnection with ourselves as loneliness?
By Melinda Brett on
12/6/2012 12:00 AM
For those of you who don't know I have been away at an ashram in the beautiful hills of Virginia. This is Week Three of the four week commitment. It should be noted I am only now at a place of feeling I can sit at a computer and begin to express myself with any level of reasonableness.
I was frequently asked before I left why I wanted to come to this ashram. I shared that I was going to experience life out of my comfort zone. I wanted to further my personal growth and recovery. I wanted to gain greater insight and a deeper connection to the Universal Spirit of my understanding. I wanted to regularly meditate, take yoga classes and eat healthy food. It was all very lofty and abstract surrounded by images of love and light.
What I seemed to have glossed over in my plans, was what it really means to be out of my comfort zone. It has not been love and light and singing angels. It has been really hard.
Every comfort I have come to rely on including lots of personal space and privacy that comes from living alone, my daily food selection options, my wonderful bed, setting my own schedule, and getting to pick and choose whom I interact with have all been removed for this period of time. I didn't realize until I got here how much of my life I have intentionally constructed to keep me comfortable.
I would like to tell you I have just embraced this and am enjoying every moment. That, however, would be a great untruth. The reality is that I have not accepted this discomfort well. I have found myself griping, both silently and out loud, at every step. I have whined about the food, the bed, the schedule, the work, the people. The beginning was filled with apprehension and uncertainty and then quickly moved into being miserable.
Thank goodness for cell phones. I hear my beautiful friends tell me to stick with it. I hear myself promising not to abandon myself. I hear and see the lessons surrounding this experience.
Now I have moved into a place of acceptance rather than resistance though this may change when I get up from the computer. I am finding ways to get peaceful in the discomfort. Most importantly, I am finally getting a glimpse of the joy in leaving the comfortable. I have a sense that it is in the discomfort fully felt that the magic happens. We'll see.
By Melinda Brett on
7/20/2010 12:00 AM
Acceptance...what often stands in our way between serenity and fury. I went to the gym today...busy morning and couldn't get there til lunch time. Got changed into my shorts/shirt and realized I had forgotten my sneakers. Damn...wanted to walk on treadmill. First thought...what should I do? Should I leave and go home to get them? Then it hit me in that moment of panic and quandry...acceptance. I had my flip flops. I could still have a workout. Went and rode bike, did more floor exercises and stretching than weights. It was a good day...but it became ok when I accepted that in that moment it was what is was.