Human beings are social creatures and need connection. Psychologists, anthropologists, and philosophers have suggested many reasons for why we need connection. These reasons include: providing for physical and emotional needs, creating tribal safety, invoking social and economic efficiency, and offering structure for human development.
explored this topic, I find our need for others is multifaceted. In mental
health, there are overlapping influences, often termed the biopsychosocial
model of health. This phonetic amalgamation promotes the importance of
three overarching schools of thought: (1) our biology, (2) our thoughts and
emotions, and (3) our social environment. Our social connections are no
small matter. We experience social connection with family, friends, church
relationships, clubs, and work situations.
One reason I feel we need others, is to create affirmation and validation for our life journey. As children, we look to authority figures for validation. At first, this person is usually a parent or guardian. When we enter our adolescence, we turn to friends. As adults, we may seek approval from peers, or authority figures such as church leaders, a spouse, or a boss at work. Marriage relationships uniquely create opportunities for seeking intimate affirmation and validation. As a therapist, I see couples desiring validation if they are “enough,” or if they are “doing things right.” These bids for validation are expressed in a variety of scenarios in the kitchen to the bedroom.
we arrive at a place where self-confidence eclipses the need to seek validation
from others. When this occurs, we help
support others, and our self-esteem is self-sufficient. I don’t think this process is a bad thing.
Instead, I feel the understanding we gain is helpful and includes three
as other people bid for validation from us, we should feel complimented, as we
are now a companion in their healing journey. Affirming another is an
opportunity to support and honor the path and choices others make in a way that
creates self-awareness and growth, confidence, and security while allowing for
a space of safety.
we need to know how hurtful rejection can be for those who seek for an
affirming voice from us. As children, we are often told “no,” “don’t,” or
“you cannot.” Usually, these commands are barked from parents who want to
protect their children. However, as a conscience being willing to aid in
the healing journey of others, an affirming voice such as “you can,” “you’ve
got this,” or “I trust you,” is more effective.
understanding your attachment style, or the attachment style of others can
assist in explaining how validation and affirmation are expressed. An
assessment of how you engage with others can aid you and those you love to help
establish securely attached relationships.
For example, some people will anxiously seek for attention, and others
pull back when things get messy, avoiding receiving the needed help the
As humans, we connect with others for a variety of meaningful ways. Seeking affirmation and validation is a human characteristic that moves people toward a place of self-confidence. We start by trusting the voices of others we trust, and then we move to trust our internal voice. We do these in elaborate dances that deserve our attention and our nonjudgmental observation.
If you or a loved one needs help in understanding or seeking validation, please give me a call at 801.944.4555 to schedule an appointment today.
We often hear of the challenges that single parents have, but another group sometimes get overlooked: solo parents are those who are not divorced or widowed but carry a very large portion of the family load because their spouse is often away. Whether it’s due to military service, religious commitments, or irregular work hours, many parents (women in particular) find themselves shouldering the bulk of the home and family responsibilities. Here are some strategies to cope as a solo parent:
I recently sat down with Nate and Angilyn Bagley to discuss issues relating to unrighteous dominion in marriages. This phrase comes from the scripture in Doctrine & Covenants 121:9 that reads, “[w]e have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority…they will begin to recognize unrighteous dominion.”
Influence By Fear or By Love
As a therapist who has worked with Mormon clients for over twenty years, I’ve seen unrighteous dominion manifested in a variety of ways: making major decisions (such as financial or employment) or in any other way being controlling and manipulative. Unrighteous dominion can extend to children as well; when a mother or a father using shame or intimidation with their children, this is another example. And any type of abuse certainly falls under the category of unrighteous dominion.
What does a blender have to do with communication you ask? Well, pull a chair up to the dining table, and I will tell you:
First, I want you to consider a scenario where someone prepared you a nice meal that you enjoyed. Envision that plate of food. What made it so enjoyable or delicious to you? How did it smell and taste? Were those sensations distinct from one another? How was it organized on the plate? Did your friend take your taste into consideration when making the dish? How much time went into preparing it?
Now, I want you to envision something entirely different. Imagine rather, that person took those same ingredients, piled them into a blender, sent them for a whirl, and poured you a nice thick glass full. As you take a big swig, can you distinguish clearly between all the ingredients? Does it slide down the throat nicely, or are your reflexes pushing it out? Are you feeling nauseous just thinking about it? What’s wrong? It’s the same ingredients, same food. Why not eat it this way?
It doesn’t take a world class chef to tell you why that wouldn’t be the same and why this concoction definitely would not be appetizing. Now, consider how communication is the exact same way as this meal. If we really want someone to digest what we are saying, we need to thoughtfully take our time, take their tastes into consideration, and plate it nicely for them. If we want someone to take in what we are feeding them, it needs to be palatable to them. Sometimes in communication, we take the haphazard route of throwing it all in the blender and serving a cup full of sludge. Then, without any consideration for the other, we can’t understand why they didn’t take in our cup of sludge.
So, does this mean for effective communication we should just serve up cake every meal? No! We all know that would lead to a sick or even dying body (or relationship). Like it or not, sometimes we need to eat things that aren’t our favorite in order to be healthy. Are you willing to take the time to find the preparation of that ingredient that tastes the most palatable for your partner, child, etc.? Some people like broccoli cooked and some like it raw. Some like it covered in butter with salt and pepper.
In my experience as a therapist, I’ve watched countless hours of couples serving one another “meals.” As they progress in the therapy process, they learn to put the blender away and begins plating beautiful meals for one another, after which no one has a problem listening or digesting.
For help putting your blenders away and plating some really nice dishes, consider making an appointment today.
Several months ago, a family member recounted a small but powerful scenario that happened in her Sacrament Meeting. While conducting the meeting, the bishop acknowledged that one of his counselors was not present on the stand; his counselor’s wife was ill and he was sitting in the pews with his children. Interestingly, not once was the man’s spouse acknowledged for sitting alone with her children week after week while her husband sat on the stand. Why? Because women are expected to perform the bulk of the invisible labor required for maintaining relationships.
I recently took a trip and stayed in a hotel with many floors. Of course, many floors mean an elevator with many buttons! During one of my visits to the elevator stood a 4-year-old child and his mother, inside the door, discussing the “buttons,” and where they went. I entered and smiled at this toddler’s curiosity as two other individuals entered. As the door closed, the boy began pushing all of the buttons! I looked to see the responses of the other passengers: one man shrugged, while the other gave earnest looks of annoyance. The mother clearly was embarrassed, and she quickly moved the child away from the buttons.
I couldn’t help but think about how this can be a metaphor of how people “push buttons” in relationships. “Pushing buttons” means to intentionally bring up topics that will leave an emotional sting and often brings about negative emotions of the receiver. This response happens almost instantly, and the intention may be the most irritating part.
I’m sure we can all think of moments that we have experienced where someone has “pushed our buttons.” What were the feelings you felt in that instant? Anger? Embarrassment? Disgust? Perhaps you had wished the floor had opened so you could jump in? It often takes a person who knows us well to be able to push our buttons with such preciseness. There’s no one that can do it quite like family; parents, siblings, children, and spouses are the best button-pushers!
In her book “Daring Greatly,” social researcher Brené Brown suggests that the reason these close relationships pack so much power is because of the attachments we have to one another. We know each other’s strengths and vulnerabilities. This dynamic of close relationships can get buttons pushed in ways that less intimate relationships can do.
The question that is often asked in therapy is: How do I avoid it? While there are people who are button pushers, there are ways to avoid having these annoyances grow and become destructive. There will always be someone standing nearby willing to embarrass, annoy, assume power over, or just be a mean tease. The antidote is perspective (which can be hard to do when someone has just taken a concerted stance against you!). Here are 10 tools to help you gain perspective and soothe your emotions in the moment:
Chew on a piece of ice
Take a time out
Talk to your Higher Power
Imagine a place of peace
Use powerful coping thoughts: “It’s OK to feel this way.” “So what?” “This sucks, but it will pass.”
Squeeze the handles of arm of the chair 5 times.
Count backwards from 100 by 7’s.
Write your name in cursive with your toe, while you’re seated with legs crossed. (Don’t laugh, it works!)
Count your breathes
Use your 5 senses: Notice what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell.
For the mother in the elevator. . . good job taking 50 deep breathes, as the elevator stopped at each and every floor!
To schedule an appointment with Andrea, call Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555
While I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this, I have to let you in on a guilty pleasure of mine; I love watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Most reality TV leaves me scoffing, changing the channel or, commenting with ridicule and judgment (I can’t help it), but when it comes to viewing Kim K and the rest of the family I walk away from each episode thinking “huh, amid the chaos there is something going well with this family”. It took me a while to sift through the grandiose- ego driven aspects of the show to find what I consider to be 3 real strengths that they demonstrate that could be applied to family therapy.
Pit and Peak
In one episode, the family sat down to family dinner, something they seemingly do often, and over the course of the meal each member took turn talking about the “Pit and the Peak” of their day. In other words, they were all present to check in with each other and share their experience of the day. There wasn’t much problem solving going on, but that seemed to be okay. The purpose of the exercise was more to hear and be heard.
*How this applies to family therapy: Spending meal times together and disclosing how your day went can be a great way to understand where people are emotionally, as well as offer support and praise. When we check in (and do it often) we are better able to avoid personalizing someone else’s bad day and this reduces conflict.
Be Real (real assertive that is)
For those of you who watch (and I know you’re out there), it is clear to see that this family has no problem putting themselves out there. While it may be a bit narcissistic or over the top in the show, what is also happening is self-validation. The Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, and Kris are willing to be vulnerable and verbalize when they are dissatisfied with one another. Rarely does this family let things get swept under the rug. When they are frustrated they let the other know and this creates the opportunity (for drama) AND for resolution. Yes, there are many times where they do not demonstrate assertive clear communication, but they are willing to put themselves out there and work it out.
*How this applies to family therapy: Passive communication often creates resentment and stress in families. Practicing assertive communication (like letting people know how you really feel) on the other hand, leads to a higher likelihood that those un-met needs that are causing conflict, will be met. Families that can “Be Real” with each other in respectful and validating ways are more likely to resolve and rebound from conflict and build secure attachments to one another.
From creating their own music videos on family vacations, to wrestling, or playing pranks on each other, this family prioritizes play. No doubt that they are not short of drama or chaos, but their efforts to play and have fun with one another help counter balance the pandemonium and strife.
*How this applies to family therapy: When we forget to have fun with our families it limits our opportunity to learn and grow together. Play can be a stress relieving and bonding experience. With children, play can help them learn and develop various skills such as motor skills, cognitive skills, and social skills. Play teaches the parents to be patient towards their children and can have the added value of increasing the child or teens self-esteem knowing they will be attended to. Families who take the time to play together, are often more cooperative, supportive and have better and more frequent communications.
While I am not suggesting that we all start emulating the Kardashians, these few point may be work trying to incorporate into your family dynamics.
We get a lot from our parents. Bone structure, our first car, eye color, money habits, etc. It’s well-known that we can inherit certain health conditions from them as well (you’re 50% more likely to develop migraines if either of your parents experiences them) Recently, evidence has emerged that suggests anxiety may be one more thing that we can get from our parents (and this is clinical anxiety, which is much more than ordinary nervousness that we all experience). d Quit Monkeying Around! d Dr. Ned Kalin and a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison analyzed brain scans of rhesus monkeys and found that the ones that displayed signs of anxiety had a family history showing stress-related symptoms in their brain wave patterns. While the study was complex, the takeaway is that anxious thought patterns may not be merely adult occurrences but can have their roots in one’s genes. This is groundbreaking, as the cause of anxiety had previously been largely unknown. More