Those who do participate in communal worship or have a committed personal practice often credit their faith or spirituality for helping them feel more grounded when their world gets shaky.
John T. of Chesterfield, Missouri, draws strength from membership in his nondenominational Christian church, where the pastor is a dear friend and source of emotional support. He also finds comfort in the [old testament]. After reading the Psalms of David during one psychiatric hospitalization, he wrote in the margins: “I’m not alone. I don’t feel forsaken.”...more
Kathleen Notes: Research proves what many of us have already known: faith provides support, comfort and a foundation of good mental, emotional and spiritual health. It makes all the sense in the world for churches to be involved in counseling and mental health issues. In The Moment Child & Family Therapy, LLC is so blessed to be a part of the ministry of Resurrection Lutheran Church!
Yet, not all people receive love through the same channel. While my mom may cherish receiving a new outfit from her children, your mom might give anything to have someone cook her a meal. Matthew 19:19 records Jesus’ saying, “Honor your father and your mother, and, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In essence, then, our process of deciding how to honor our mothers should depend on the answer to: how does Mom experience love the most? It’s not about how much I enjoy buying her gifts; it’s about doing for her what speaks clearest “I love you”.
Gary Chapman’s excellent book The 5 Love Languages lends us a helpful grid to assess how we each best experience love. The five languages of which he speaks include:
Kathleen Notes: Not sure how your mom feels loved? Think about how she shows love to others for a start. Most people show love the way they receive it. If necessary, you could always ask mom to fill out the quiz at http://www.5lovelanguages.com. It could start a wonderful conversation...I bet Mom would love that...I`m a quality time girl myself...
The activities of the mind are related to patterns of brain activity. Different mental activities, such as reading a book, painting a picture, or talking to a loved one, each involve different patterns of interaction between networks of nerve cells in the brain. The networks involved in one activity are often different from those involved in another activity. Networks can also be linked together in different patterns. If we looked into the brain, we would see shifting patterns in the activity of networks and in their connections with each other as the mind moves from one task to another. For a while, one pattern predominates, then a shift occurs, so brain networks that previously interacted in one pattern now do so in a different configuration. Over time, we would see the different activities of the mind reflected in continually shifting and evolving patterns of interaction between brain networks.
If we looked long enough, we would see that a limited number of core patterns of brain activity and interaction seem to crop up as recurring features in a wide variety of different mental activities. These core patterns reflect some basic “modes of mind.”...more
Kathleen Notes: How the brain works is fascinating...God made it to do amazingly complex tasks. Having a basic understanding can help to make sense of why you respond the way you do!
You might either be intrigued or infuriated, but hear me out. Something really magical is going on that is vital to their future school success.
When you talk to and read to your child every night, you are exposing them to rich vocabulary. How do children learn new words? Through experience and meaningful context. Children`s literature uses language in new and playful ways, and your preschooler is like a sponge sucking it all up.
When children are learning to read in Kindergarten they are learning skills that help them decode and sound out words. However, the words have to make sense. They have to understand the words they are reading in order to comprehend the story, and that is where vocabulary is a very important and often overlooked component to building readers....more
Kathleen Notes: A validating article for those parents and grandparents who have patiently read those stories (you know which ones!) over and over.
Resilience is the ability to return to the original form after being bent, stretched or compressed. It’s the ability to readily recover from illness, depression or adversity. How would you ever handle it if you lost everything you had today? What would your next step be? How long would you be depressed and upset and angry? What would it take for you to pull yourself up and start all over again? How resilient are you? Could you handle it? Could you learn from all of your disappointments and start all over again? What would it take?
Kathleen Notes: Resilience is begun in childhood but built over a lifetime. It can always be improved!
I think that most people see self-discipline as far more complicated than it actually is. When you boil it down, self-discipline is actually composed of only two ingredients:
Notice anything about those two ingredients? That’s right. They’re skills. Skills, and nothing more.
So now you know the secret to self-discipline, and the reason why some people struggle so much more than others. They are not genetically inferior, nor are they weak-willed. They simply did not learn these two skills well enough in childhood, and they must now teach themselves, as adults....more
Kathleen Notes: A life skill, in fact!
I realized that I had to put a stop to my negative thoughts about my husband. He was not intentionally trying to upset me. He was simply learning a new job and a new routine. Allowed to go unchecked, my negative thoughts and feelings could have created fissures in the foundation of our marriage.
My mind needed to be transformed and renewed. Following encouragement from Scripture to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5), I tried to turn each negative thought into a prayer....more
Kathleen Notes: A short but powerful article.
"We don`t talk anymore!" shouted my wife, Cindy.
"That`s ridiculous," I said. "We talk all the time!"
"But not about what we need to talk about. What`s important to me. What`s important for us!"
"Then drive with me to my softball game. If it`s that big of a deal, you can talk to me on the way to the game about anything you want."
But Cindy wouldn`t go to that game. Soon after, she wouldn`t go to any of my games.
I was convinced she was just emotional or intentionally not explaining what she meant. She seemed convinced that I simply didn`t care about her or anything she had to say.
That was the level of communication in our first year of marriage. We talked about how we needed to communicate with each other — all the time. But we never connected. Cindy became more and more hurt and lonely. And I grew more and more angry and lonely.
And then the day came when things blew up — but in an amazing way. On that day, Cindy used a powerful communication tool, a word picture, to change my life ... and our marriage.
The story that made the difference.......more
Kathleen Notes: I`ve been talking about this article to clients all week. To those who heard, you will agree that I didn`t do the article justice. If you only read one article this week, read this one...
Recently, I sat in session with a married couple named Dara and Mike. Speaking to one of the issues that brought them to therapy, Dara said, “Every time I tell him I don’t feel like a priority, he tells me it’s not true. Yet, he never spends any time with me.”
Dara began to tear up. I asked her what she felt in that moment. “Lonely,” she responded.
I turned to Mike and asked him, “What is it like for you to hear Dara say this makes her feel lonely?”
He turned to her and said, “I’m sorry you feel that way. That wasn’t my intention.”
Imagine a beautiful song on a record player suddenly coming to a screeching halt. What happened here?...more
Kathleen Notes: Everyone wants to be heard and understood, that`s the cause of many arguments. If apologies are needed, you need to know what is going on for that other person for it to be effective.
The recommendation comes from a solid foundation. Research has shown that mere verbal labeling of negative emotions can help people recover control.[i] UCLA’s Matthew Lieberman refers to this as “affect labeling” and his fMRI brain scan research shows that this labeling of emotion appears to decrease activity in the brain’s emotional centers, including the amygdala. This dampening of the emotional brain allows its frontal lobe (reasoning and thinking center) to have greater sway over solving the problem du jour.
And this is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness gives us that moment of space as reactive emotions (like anger) are rising up. If we can see the anger, then we don’t have to be it—we can mindfully notice the body and mind crackling with reactivity, and acknowledge (or “name”) our emotions as we’re having them. Doing so seems to help us disengage from them. We can see them, and then we can begin to choose how to react instead of reacting under the sway of intoxicatingly strong emotions. We can choose to act to open ourselves and connect with others, rather than be carried away in a flood of emotional neurochemicals that wash us over the cliff....more
Kathleen Notes: “Name it to tame it.” say psychiatrist and mindfulness expert Dan Siegel
I have a 13-year-old son who is currently frustrating me. He used to be my fun little buddy but is now a gangly, reclusive kid with a mustache. I don’t know what to do – or not do — with him. Recently, after a long basketball tournament weekend that brought out all the emotions, I realized my mommy superpowers of healing and consoling were gone. I needed a new game plan if he was going to make it to 14.
So, I decided to ask my therapist for advice. My next appointment with her went like this: ...more
Kathleen Notes: Read on...The irony of this article is that was shared to me by my own daughter...the "former" teenager now awesome parent in her own right.
The rest of the year is filled with other obligations, but the summer belongs to us.
One of my goals this summer is to reacquaint myself with my kids. That may sound silly. I mean, I should know my little family pretty well, right?
But the truth is, we all change. My daughter no longer really plays with toys, and her taste in books and music has evolved. My son, who has always been a huge Mama’s boy, has been seeking his own sort of independence over the past few months. They’re growing. If I don’t frequently reacquaint myself with the little people God is growing them into, I’ll miss out on really knowing my family....more
Kathleen Notes: Summer is a great opportunity to spend time with your kids. They won`t stay young forever, this is the time!
Kids learn best how they are loved when it is demonstrated to them through loving actions. Saying “I love you” without showing love can feel like empty words to a child––or anyone really. In the same way, God, who is the perfect loving Father, displayed the depth of His love by sending his only Son whose sacrifice would pay the price for our sin. Reminding your grandchild of how God lovingly offers new life in Christ to anyone who would turn from their sin to follow Jesus is a great way to help them realize how great the Father`s love is for them....
......Jesus said, “The student will become like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). Your grandchildren will learn to love by how they observe you loving others––not by how you tell them they should be treating people. You will bless your grandchildren if you teach them the secret to loving others deeply is not found in how well they measure up to your expectations, but in how well they love God. And let it begin with you. ...more
Kathleen Notes: Grandparents, you are in the position to be a blessing to your grandchildren in so many ways! What you do and say matters.
We notice that the critic lives in a world of absolutes, with little room for nuance or gray areas. Her favorite words are should, always, and never, and blame is her operating system. “You’ve blown it, you always do.” “You should just give up.” “You’re so different, no one will ever love you.” “You’re so flawed, you’ll never be able to help yourself, let alone anybody else.” Instead of creating a wide and open space for embracing our lives, the inner critic causes us to question our worth and collapse in on ourselves.
For some, the inner critic is a specific voice from the past—your mother, your aunt, a child, the boss who fired you. My friend Joseph Goldstein still remembers the first-grade teacher who gave him a big red F in cutting and pasting. (This was in the days when you mixed flour and water to make paste, and Joseph’s work was apparently very messy.)...more
Kathleen Notes: It can also be the voice of the Enemy, trying to drown out the voice of Jesus that tells you in Scripture that you are a new creation in Him. Either way, that voice needs to be recognized and disputed with Truth. God`s Word IS truth...
I used to have a very hard time seeing anything but the ways I had failed when I faced struggles as a parent. If I was dealing with siblings fighting, I figured it was because I had done everything wrong and failed to teach the kids to get along. If one of my kids struggled to focus when doing school work, I chastised myself for not knowing the way to help them learn better......
.....Each time we solve a new problem, or make a mistake and learn from it, we’re gaining resilience. If we spend our life constantly running from struggle, we stay stuck. ...more
Kathleen Notes: Don`t run from your mistakes, embrace them as a learning opportunity!
I was recently reading a blog post and noticed that someone in the comment section asked the question: “What does it mean when we refer to someone as a survivor?” We hear about “survivors” of domestic violence and “survivors” of sexual assault all the time, but what does it mean when we refer to people in this way? I thought this was a good question to explore. The description provided by the National Crime Victim Law Institute states a survivor is “a person who endures adversity, moves through it, and perseveres, or a person with resiliency who remains undefeated.” I like that definition. ...more
Kathleen Notes: Trauma treatment is long and difficult work, but worth it in every way. I am honored by my clients who allow me to come along side them on that journey.
An anxious mind is also a beautifully creative, imaginative mind. This is a great thing, except for when that imagination and creativity is being used to imagine outcomes that feel unbearable, however unlikely they may be. These thoughts of what ‘could’ happen, drive self-talk, which in turn directs behaviour towards doing whatever is necessary to avoid a bad outcome. Hello perfectionism.
When perfectionism takes hold, it’s not so much with a gentle, ‘I’ll be over here in case you need me’, kind of way, but more in a, ‘oooohhh let me stay with you and protect you and never let you go’, kind of way. Perfectionism can be relentless, and although it can be helpful, it can also be suffocating – and so exhausting!...more
Kathleen Notes: "Perfectionism" isn`t always what it seems on the outside. All behavior is a form of communication...what`s being said?
Boundaries are essential to healthy relationships and, really, a healthy life. Setting and sustaining boundaries is a skill. Unfortunately, it’s a skill that many of us don’t learn, according to psychologist and coach Dana Gionta, Ph.D. We might pick up pointers here and there from experience or through watching others. But for many of us, boundary-building is a relatively new concept and a challenging one.
Having healthy boundaries means “knowing and understanding what your limits are,” Dr. Gionta said....more
Kathleen Notes: Another life skill, one that comes from knowing what is yours to solve and what isn`t.
In Psalm 127:4, you will find an amazing statement about your child. Many of us know of the previous verse, in which we are told, “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” That’s a nice, warm, safe verse.
But then look at verse four: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.”
Think about those words. The psalmist refers to your child as an arrow—a weapon! And that is no mistake.
God has great plans for your child. Arrows are not meant to be kept safe in the quiver. He wants you to eventually release that arrow to make an impact on our world with the love of Christ. And guess who gets to be the primary “crafter” of the arrow?...more
Kathleen Notes: GREAT article, the arrow analogy is so fitting!
To the single men who are considering marriage and feeling hesitant, I issue this invitation from Elisabeth Elliot’s Let Me Be a Woman: You do not marry a ministry partner; you marry a person. You do not marry someone like another man’s wife; you marry your wife. You do not marry someone like you; you marry a unique woman. And you do not marry someone perfect, you marry a sinner.
The same goes for women in their search for a husband. After marriage, you are not committed to your call more than you’re committed to the person, husband, man, and sinner before you. Nowhere in Scripture is “pastor’s wife” the attribute of a godly, good wife, nor is “deep theologian” the attribute for a husband. The only four qualities we need to understand in our search for a spouse are littered throughout the Scriptures and true of every married person on earth....more
Kathleen Notes: "Men and women are distinct. We do not marry someone with our own gender inclinations. We marry the Other, with different proclivities, different drives, different ways of processing, and different appetites. Judging a potential spouse based on our own way of doing things is recipe for disaster. Instead, we’re called by God to embrace the distinctiveness of the Other, the complementarity of marriage, and the difficulties that come with that complementarity." Lore Ferguson Wilbert.
The message of God`s grace is one that we need to apply to parenting, especially when it comes to discipline. Parenting our kids with grace is parenting them the way God parents us — with grace. Through Jesus, God has made a way for us to become His beloved sons and daughters. He offers us His love and favor because of who He is and Christ`s sacrifice on the Cross, not because of who we are or what we do.??
Following the example of the Ultimate Parent is the best chance we have to raise children who understand God`s grace. It`s hard to do, though. Thankfully, God accepts us as we are, but He doesn`t leave us that way. The greatest challenge we face as parents is disciplining our kids the way God disciplines us — with overwhelming love that puts their needs ahead of our own.??...more
Kathleen Notes: Our Heavenly Father is the example to follow. Remember that as a parent, you also need grace and forgiveness: first from God and then from yourself. Parents do the best they can with what they have.
But there’s an alternative to that harsh self-talk: self-compassion. According to researcher Kristin Neff, “self-compassion provides an island of calm, a refuge from the stormy seas of endless positive and negative self-judgment.” As she defines it, self-compassion entails three components:
“First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental.”
“Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering.”
“Third, it requires mindfulness—that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it.”
Kathleen Notes: When you speak to yourself as a friend might talk to you you help to "fill your own cup". Remember, you can`t give what you don`t have!
You might be inclined to put your kid in her room until she can calm down. But that`s giving her a message that her emotions are shameful -- not allowed in your house. What you really want is for her to learn that emotions are just part of being human, that she can notice and accept them -- and learn to express them in constructive ways...
But here`s the most important thing to know about a Calm-Down Corner. If you send your child there, it feels like banishment, and your child will react just as she would to a "Naughty Step." No child wants to be sent away to calm down. That feels like a rejection.
So always go with your child, so she develops positive associations to the Cozy Corner. In fact, don`t wait until your child is upset. Go to the cozy corner for quiet times so your child gets used to this space as a soothing place to be, where the activities feel calming.
Then, when you get upset, model going to the cozy corner to calm down! Of course, your child can come with you....more
Kathleen Notes: The Calm Down Corner is for everyone!!! This is a fantastic way to teach and reinforce emotional regulation skills.
We make decisions every day, throughout the day. In fact, we make so many decisions we often don’t even see them as decisions. Decisions we’ve made over and over eventually turn into habits. Although we often think of habits as bad, it’s important to see them as a set of decisions that simply don’t need much, if any, conscious thought to perform them. Brush our teeth. Put on our shoes. Eat breakfast or skip it. All of these mundane tasks are still choices, still decisions we make.
All too often, we make decisions based on faulty information, peer pressure, and impulsivity. In this article, I’d like to highlight some red-flag behaviors that increase our chances of feeling regret about our decisions. I’ll also offer some suggestions on how to avoid these red flags....more
Kathleen Notes: Good article on how to slow down the emotional part of your brain and apply knowledge and judgement.
Emotional connection is the bond that keeps people together. It is the glue in relationships. Many couples don’t realize that if they are not regularly connecting on an emotional level, the link that keeps them together weakens.
In a previous article, I wrote about what happens to our brains when we feel emotionally disconnected from a partner or spouse. We can feel like our sense of security is threatened, causing us to become fearful. The amygdala, the almond-shaped region in the midbrain, acts as an alarm system, and a sense of panic can set in.
When we don’t get relief by reconnecting to loved ones, this can put us in a hyperaroused emotional state. This, in turn, can cause our stress levels to heighten due to elevated cortisol. Physical and mental health and well-being may suffer if cortisol stays elevated over a long period....more
Kathleen Notes: Many small connections over time mean more than a few big ones that only happen once in a while. There are limitless ways to make those small but important gestures.
Does every mom act this way? Of course not. But everyone reading this probably knows of at least one mom who does. It’s usually not because her man is a complete idiot (and if he is a complete idiot, that brings up a whole new set of issues to discuss), it’s because of good old-fashioned maternal gatekeeping. Yes, that’s an actual thing, defined as the behaviors of moms directed at dads, and those behaviors play a role in how involved fathers are with their children....
......Is maternal gatekeeping the only factor that influences a dad’s behavior? Absolutely not, but it certainly is a factor to be taken seriously, and a study showed just that. Moms who offered encouragement to dads had a much stronger impact than criticism (duh, I know). ...more
Kathleen Notes: Everyone is motivated by appreciation and encouragement. Fathers bring a different skill set and abilities that our kids need, that`s why God planned children to be raised by both a mother and a father. It`s a team sport...
Do you approach your marriage as though it is a covenant, or a contract? The differences are significant, and whether you are treating your spouse as a contract partner or a covenant partner can make all the difference in the world for having a fulfilling marriage. While we may have never considered whether our marriage is a contract or a covenant, one of these approaches likely describes the framework for our marriage, and this framework shapes both minor daily interactions that we have with our spouse, and the long-term health and viability of that relationship. So, which is it--contract, or covenant? ...more
Kathleen Notes: Big difference! Read on to learn what that is...
The to-do list is a constant companion of busy students, working parents, and everyone in between. Have you ever noticed how it never really goes away? You cross out the last thing on your list on the best of days and think of something to add an hour later. If you’re lucky, your to-do list is a productive tool that alleviates stress and tackles problems. But the to-do list can also hold you hostage, doomed to revisit items every day that you’d rather avoid. For the best approach to all you have to get done, learn how to make your to-do list more effective—and how to train yourself to be more productive by doing nothing at all. ...more
Kathleen Notes: Time off isn`t non-productive at all. All of us need some time to decompress and nurture ourselves. It`s not selfish to put yourself on the list, it`s your responsibility to do so!!
Except not all holidays end up looking like the pictures we’ve painted right in our very own minds. Actually, most of them end up looking a whole lot different than the image we’ve created.
Especially Mother’s Day.
Mother’s Day is the queen of the type of holiday that makes us crazy, because we’ve created an image of the perfect holiday, and somehow convinced ourselves that that image is real in everyone else’s homes. When in reality, there’s zero chance it will actually turn out like the image we’re seeing in our minds (and a nearly 100% chance it also does not look like that in everyone else’s homes either.)...
God gives us opportunities to bless, and to be refined. So next time you’re tempted to give into disappointment or to be disheartened because your life doesn’t align with the picture in your head, lean into His heart instead. And in doing so, become more like Him.
Let’s praise God, from whom all blessings flow – even the sticky, fingerprinted, early-rising, crumb-covered, diaper-blowout, forgot-to-call, perfectly imperfect ones. May you have a happy Mother’s Day, in all of its real-life glory!...more
Kathleen Notes: A Blessed Mother`s Day to all of the mothers and grandmothers, step mothers, foster mothers and those women who fill the role of "2nd Mother"!!!
That’s the bad news about big feelings: they’re meant to be felt and expressed. If we don’t create the space for that to happen, they’ll find a way to do it themselves, and believe you me, our emotions don’t give two hoots about whether or not it’s a good time for us. (Spoiler alert: It’s never a good time.)
The good news is that we can become more skillful at managing our emotions. The better we get at identifying, naming, and expressing our big feelings, the better our kids will get at it, too. Eventually, they’ll be able to eat their broccoli without going all nuclear at the table. Here are some practices that can help the entire family roll more smoothly during those typically tense moments....more
Kathleen Notes: Our feelings aren`t necessarily facts. However, they are given to use by God for a reason. If you don`t express or validate them, they will make sure that you do!
Each week I will collect and reflect on 5 to 10 relevant articles about important topics like parenting, marriage, relationships, and families. Within these topics I will address the challenges and joys, struggles and solutions from a Positive and Strengths-based approach. I am a strong believer in the power of relationships to grow, nurture and heal the human mind and spirit. I hope you find one or two of these articles useful for your practice, classroom or household. My opinions are open to discussion and even disagreement, as they are intended to facilitate the sharing of multiple thoughts and ideas! This publication is offered by In the Moment Child and Family Therapy, LLC, a Ministry of Resurrection Lutheran Church (WELS) in Verona, Wisconsin.
I would really enjoy hearing your feedback if you care to give it at Kathleen@inthemomenttherapy.com
Sharing of this publication is encouraged so if you have a friend/relative/coworker who might enjoy it, feel free to forward them or encourage them to subscribe!