How Self-Love Can Save Your Marriage

via Huffington Post | Pacific MFT

via Huffington Post | Pacific MFT

{How Self Love Saved My Marriage - Melody Godfred, Huffington Post}

We resonate so much with the real-ness of this personal story of self-recovery from Melody Godfred, co-creator of the Self Love Pinky Ring.

From both a clinical and personal perspective, her story is so relate-able and so important. 

As wives, husbands, partners, parents, friends -- as people with the fundamental need for healthy attachments -- we must start understanding the value of {balanced} self-love and self-care as part of our relational health. We just can't stress this enough. 

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"Self-love for so long was associated solely with narcissism. You would think self loves makes it harder for you to love others. But it doesn’t. Exactly the opposite.When you are full, you have a well to pull from in service to others" (Godfred, 2016). 

Life usually doesn't get easier as it continues ... certain things may ... but it's nature that our responsibilities grow continuously - especially when marriage, family, and raising kids kicks in on top of managing life in general.

Unfortunately, it's all too easy to get lost in the madness and lose yourself.

"As I grew older and responsibilities mounted, two things started to happen: I became a perfectionist (which means I was not only hard on myself, I was extremely hard on everyone else), and I became a self-sacrificer. Now neither of these things was a stretch: I am the latest in a long line of superwomen who are adept at martyring themselves in service to others" (Godfred, 2016). 

...and as you may have experienced already, perfect parenting certainly doesn't exist, perfect marriages are just not a thing, and self-sacrificing really only hurts yourself and everyone around you. 

So, I encourage you to take a coffee break from your busy day, check out the full article, and really think about what comes up...

...are you on your life train?? Or did you forget yourself at the station?

Please click here to view full article on Huffington Post, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on FacebookInstagram, Linkedin, or via email!

If you'd like to talk to someone about how you can "re-find your you" and redefine your life and your relationships, please contact us! We offer therapeutic services for children, adolescents, adults, couples, families, and groups...helping people work through their pastlive in the present, and look toward a hopeful future. 

South Bay, Los Angeles - Manhattan Beach

West Los Angeles


Β© 2016 Rachel Cord, Pacific MFT Network

Oh yes, the past can hurt, but there is purpose in the pain...don't run from it

As humans (yep, that includes you), we all experience pain ... trauma history, abuse, loss, rejection, mental illness, tragedy, broken hearts...the list is infinite. No matter what makes up our past, there is pain there. And oftentimes, we are told to "never look back", to "keep what's passed, past", and to "be strong and move on" ....

- why? -

because it's uncomfortable. it hurts. and we often adapt to that by avoiding, running,and suppressing the painful yesterdays.  

It's natural to do so, and maybe you were taught or modeled that as a child. But the truth is, we can never really, successfully, run and hide from our past...because our past is part of our story, not the end of our story, but the painful parts are a big chunk of it....and where the most growth is! 

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Yup, your past...even the most painful chapters that you've "forgotten" about, are parts of you -- and while the past does not have to define you, it has helped to shape and form your path to right now.

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I believe in the importance of owning and honoring every single part of yourself ... even the parts you hate...mistakes you've made, wrong-doings done to you, shame, regret, anger... 
Disowning those parts of yourself impede on the ability to truly move forward, and to ultimately feel and be whole. 

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By running away, you give more power to the past that hurts you, and take power away from your ability to grow.  

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I would love to hear your thoughts and experience with this ... please go to our Facebook page, Instagram or Linkedin profile and drop me a note!

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If you'd like to talk to someone about how you can face, process, and set free from a painful history, please contact us! We offer therapeutic services for children, adolescents, adults, couples, families, and groups...helping people work through their pastlive in the present, and look toward a hopeful future. 

 Β© 2016 Rachel Cord, Pacific MFT Network

False Ideas of Self-Worth

One of my favorite quotes from BrenΓ© Brown - Researcher and Storyteller

Where do you find your worth? 

Yesterday, i attended a wonderful *local training event about substance abuse and eating disorder recovery, and one of the many points that caught my attention was the idea that people who struggle with these issues have extremely low self-esteem and a false sense of self-worth (even though they can seem confident, independent, or strong on the outside). 

Specifically with addiction or eating disorders, self-worth is often linked to long-standing cemented beliefs that their value and worthiness are dependent on false ideals and extrinsic factors completely unrelated to their actual identity as a person. Many times, these distortions can be linked all the way back to even the smallest messages received in childhood. 

Whether or not you struggle or have struggled with a mental health disorder such as addiction or an eating disorder, self-worth is a very loaded topic for us all. So this gets me thinking, where do we find our worth? 

I think that this answer will vary person-to-person, but some ideas that come to mind from my experience working in this field, and just from being a person myself, include:

  • how much wealth and $$ you have - this one seems obvious, and can be pretty controversial and sensitive. All I have to say is that yes, money has value - it is what our economy and human livelihood is built on - but the value that has been put on wealth (and the skewed distribution of it) is pretty corrupt and devastating (that's just my opinion). And no, money does not = worthiness. 
  • how many friends you have - or instagram likes, facebook or twitter followers, etc. 
  • from the number on the scale, to the number of calories you eat/don't eat a day, to the number of push-ups you can do or miles you can run, to your latest plastic surgery, this is a big one in our society.
  • what others think of you. let's not pretend that we haven't all dealt with this one at some point in our lives. separating our own opinions, desires, goals, or likes & dis-likes, from those of others - especially people we naturally seek belonging, love, and approval from - can be a very difficult balance. 

Okay, so maybe all of these can be controversial and sensitive - and it really is about balance. Some of the things I mentioned can be healthy to a point, but, more than likely, quickly turn into a slippery slope, demanding unrealistic expectations or ideals about things that may not actually define who you are on the inside, as a human, a friend, a parent, a child, an advocate, an explorer, or a believer. 

So, my hope is that as a community, we will continue to be cognizant of the tempting, yet dysfunctional, ideas of what makes people valuable or worthy of love and belonging. There are far healthier and more productive ways for us to define our worth, and while I can't tell you what those things may be for you, I encourage you to reflect on how you tend to measure you worth, and where your worth really lies. 

"You're imperfect, and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging" - BrenΓ© Brown

  

* The event I attended was put on by Clear Recovery Center, a comprehensive addiction recovery center in the heart of the South Bay, and A New Journey eating disorder recovery center, located in Santa Monica. 

Experiencing Joy When Your Cup is Empty

It is mid-December and we are in the middle of the holidays, also known as the "most wonderful time of the year". A time when we are supposed to be full of joy, surrounded by love, and at peace. But the disheartening truth is that our world is suffering from a lack of such things.

The irony is that right now I should be running a therapy group with 7 middle-schoolers, leading them in an activity intended to encourage reflection around "intangible gift-giving" (such as kindness, hope, gratitude, and trust). Instead, these children are not able to be at school due to threats of violence targeting the LAUSD, resulting in 900 school closures across Los Angeles today. Yes, we have a violence problem, a terrorism problem, a gun problem, but at the root of it all we have a humanity problem.

In these moments I wonder: how do we stay in the holiday spirit (or any kind of positive spirit) when there is such pain, fear, and tragedy happening around and within us?

As I sit at my desk feeling discouraged and saddened, I have to make the conscious choice to see the word "joy" printed on my tea-cup, to smell the "balsam fir" candle burning next to me, and to hear Frank Sinatra's rendition of "I'll be Home for Christmas" playing in the background. Here are a few simple ways to experience joy, even if your "cup of joy" appears to be empty...

1. Get outside. As tempting and cozy as it may be to stay indoors during this "harsh" California winter, getting outside can be the perfect redirection from negative feelings. Whether you take a five minute work break for some fresh air, find a beach to sit on, or go for an hour long walk, getting a taste of nature is a great "pick me up".

2. Snuggle a furry friend. Spend some extra time with your pet. Experiencing unconditional love and affection from a dog (or any animal you share a bond with) is actually an evidence-based way to feel a multitude of renewed uplifting emotions.

3. Tell someone you love them, and tell them why. In my opinion, the first step to feeling joy and combating the negativity in the world, is to open our hearts to others, spread the love, and remind people why they are cherished.

4. Make a list of all the things you are grateful for. Glad you have hot water to take a warm shower with later? Thankful to have someone who loves you despite how weird you really are behind closed doors? Blessed with money to pay for other things you enjoy and/or need? ... Perspective is the key to happiness.

5. Give back to your community or a charity. Because giving feels good. And the world needs our time and money invested in things that actually matter. Every little bit counts.

6. Exercise. What's that? Physical activity is good for the body AND the mind? Yes! exercise = endorphins = happy.

7. Make use of that mistletoe. Speaking of endorphins...if you're looking to self-medicate, kissing is one dopamine-producing drug I'm actually willing to support.

8. Remind yourself that it's okay to be happy, and that you deserve to be. Make a conscious decision to allow yourself to experience joy, however that may be for you. Mindfully living with intent, purpose, and awareness of the positive things, however small, is part of breaking down the walls that can prevent your heart from feeling happy.

There are many ways to experience joy, but sometimes it can seem impossible to find joy in things that normally bring us pleasure. Personal therapy is a good way to rediscover that ability in yourself. If you are interested in considering therapy, I encourage you to contact me to discuss options for therapeutic services.

How You Treat Your Body Is Affecting Your Mind

...because hangry is a very real thing...

As highlighted in my previous article called Emotional Self-Care, one of my greatest passions as both a person and a clinician is increasing understanding of the link between physical health and mental health (that "power couple" I like to call overall well-being).

A colleague and good friend of mine, Jessica Brennan*, is a Registered Dietitian who focuses her practice not only on the importance of adequate nutrition and exercise, but also on things like quality sleep and stress management to improve overall health and wellness. While this is wonderfully convenient for me personally, I also trust her as a key resource and referral for any of my clients who struggle with nutritional health, maladaptive relationships with food, or who need help figuring out the best diet and exercise routine for their specific needs, goals, and lifestyle (key word: specific).

One of the many reasons I appreciate Jessica's work is that she doesn't believe in any one perfect diet (hallelujah!). At a recent training conference, I heard a statistic that the #1 area of marketing with the most money spent per year in advertising - targeting us every single day in more ways than we know - is dieting. That may seem pretty obvious, but it still blows my mind how obsessed we are as a society with approaching quality of life and values from a highly superficial outward perspective. Majority of the time, these subliminal messages are targeting those of us longing for a quick, easy fix to all of the things we are dissatisfied with about ourselves and our lives (spoiler alert: that doesn't exist).

Lately, Jessica and I have been discussing how similar our viewpoints are on health and wellness, inspiring us to join forces with our differing skill-sets, educations, and specialties to talk about how exactly this is all connected, and why it is so important.

One major point that I try to discuss with all of my clients, regardless of what issue brings them to therapy, is that there is no way to be "running on all cylinders" mentally, intellectually, or emotionally, if your nutrition** and physical health***  are suffering - and vice versa! I find that a lot of people are either unaware of the implications of that fact, are making themselves sick trying to overcome or "prove it wrong", or are simply in denial to avoid making positive and necessary change.

...while that is tough to see - I understand it. I have been there, and I know there are layers upon layers of reasons why people choose unhealthy lifestyles that often inadvertently end up sabotaging their efforts to be successful, attractive, happy, or in control.

But we can't ignore the subjects that are easiest to avoid, and there are mountains of studies and empirical research findings revealing the direct key role that nutrition plays in the onset, severity, and duration of serious mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, psychosis, addiction, and common issues people struggle with on a daily basis like lack of motivation, sadness, irritability, insomnia, fatigue, relationship distress ... i could continue, but you get the picture.

To continue reading about this, and to learn about Jessica's holistic, realistic, and self-compassionate approach to the food we put in our bodies - please click here for part 2 on this topic.

Stay tuned for further research in the field on this, and for updates on my blog about how I am integrating the powerful bond between nutrition and mental health in my practice - with a wide array of human issues and concerns.

* Jessica Brennan, RD, has a private nutrition practice in Redondo Beach, CA. For more information on her services, you can visit her website here.

** Nutritional health does not necessarily mean either over-eating or under-eating, being over-weight or under-weight etc. These overused labels are often arbitrary and vary person by person. Nutritional health is about eating a balanced diet, from which your body is able to get all of the energy and nutrients it needs to function properly. It is important that you consult with a professional if you are concerned about your nutritional health.

*** I use the term physical health here as a general umbrella term, encompassing many factors such as sleep, stress management, nourishment, physical fitness, medical self-care, substance use, neurological functioning, etc.

Gratitude: Even in the Wake of Darkness

"Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity...it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." Melody Beattie
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As we approach the cherished and beloved American tradition of Thanksgiving, while simultaneously in the midst of a world tainted with war, devastation, and tragedy, I have been thinking a lot about both grief and gratitude.

During and after the terrifying events that occurred in Paris last Friday, November 13, 2015, I found myself experiencing an overwhelming wave of emotion. Although I was not personally or directly affected by these acts of terror, I have been following the stories and reports and wanting to educate myself more on world politics and news. That day and the days that have followed I found myself experiencing a mix of anger, fear, sadness, hopelessness...helpless determination to make it all stop. I caught myself trying to shake off fearful vigilance of my surroundings, thoughts about how nobody is ever really safe in this world...how our world is doomed and how life is so frail and fleeting.

I know I am not alone in the emotional after-effects of such a tragic and threatening travesty. As the week has gone on, I have been working hard to stay on top of the news, while not letting the constant "depressing" stories take over my entire emotional state. I have been surrounding myself with family and friends, continuing to devote myself to my work and passions, and focusing not only on the darkness of the world, but also on the beauty and the hope that still remains.

Yesterday I was preparing for a Thanksgiving activity to do with a therapy group I am running with middle school students, and I came across an old art project from a therapy session with a client who was struggling with feelings of parental rejection and abandonment. We traced a turkey with the outline of her hand, and she was free to decorate it as she pleased. The prompt was simply "I am grateful for..."

Although I can't share a photo of her art, I can tell you that she decorated her "gratitude turkey" with all sorts of colorful feathers, and fervently wrote a random collection of words and phrases around it. She had no difficulty coming up with at-least 20 blessings that she is thankful for (and they were all non-material things). One of the words on there is hope.

My clients teach me every day.

So, with Thanksgiving and the season of joy upon us, my hope is that we don't lose sight of what what life is all about...that we continue to remain aware of harsh realities and to fight for justice and peace, but also continue to live, give love, and give thanks for the good.

*For a hopeful article by world renowned author and traveler Rick Steves, who offers an enlightening perspective on the terror resulting from the Paris attacks, click here.

Emotional Self-Care: Bridging the Gap Between Physical Health and Mental Health

Throughout my education, training, and personal and professional experience in the mental health field thus far, something has become very apparent to me: there remains to be a significant gap between the value of physical and psychological health. We live in a society where billions of dollars are spent each year on things like changes in health care, new ways to improve physical appearance, anti-aging techniques, and extreme weight-loss diet and exercise regimens...but psychological self-care is often de-prioritized and overlooked, maybe even labeled as "hokey psyco-babble". This is an important subject that I hope to research and explore further in my personal life and my career as a mental health clinician. 

Let me clarify that I am certainly not de-emphasizing the importance of physical health - I consider medical and biological history in every case in my practice. However, I do strongly believe that our minds and our bodies are innately interconnected, constantly influencing one-another and contributing together to overall quality of life.

Guy Winch, Psychologist and author, presented an excellent TedTalks on this issue, discussing the incredible benefits of addressing our psychological pains, in order to not only heal from them, but also build "emotional resilience and thrive". Guy outlines some common ailments of the heart and mind which are so often trivialized, but in fact often contribute to health issues. With his perspective on the human nature of mental and emotional challenges, such as loneliness, failure, rejection, shame, and negative thinking, he encourages us to look inward, take action, learn new responses, and treat the psychological pain caused by these wounds.     *See Guy Winch's bio and full TedTalks video below*

***If you get nothing else from this, please take this one reminder: treat yourself with the same compassion and kindness that you would expect from a caring parent, a very good friend, or a nurturing doctor.

There are many ways to engage in emotional self-care...personal therapy being one of them. If you are interested in looking into therapy, I encourage you to contact me to discuss options for therapeutic services.

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