I love stories, and I feel connected to many people through the stories they share. One of my favorite things about being a therapist
is the exchange of stories that I’m invited into each day. Story telling is such a rich part of our culture, and in fact culture itself can be passed on through stories.
When I think about local dating culture I picture couples going out for dinner and then going to the movies. Movies are merely big budget stories and sometimes, like in my own life, a date to a movie turns into a story of marriage.
In studying couples we have come to understand that the way in which partners describe their past predicts the future of the marriage. That’s some powerful storytelling! I recall the first time I heard this idea when I was in my undergraduate studies and it boggled my mind to think that the way in which a couple tells “their story” can lead a specialist to predict their stability or divorce with a 94% success rate. In my practice I have seen partners develop such animosity toward their spouse that they get to a point where they only remember the negative aspects of their marriage. In a way they are rewriting their history, and only including the bad parts. This often acts as a catalyst that activates divorce.
Happy couples, in contrast, highlight their good memories. This is significant because they are not hiding the bad, they are simply
emphasizing the positive moments. This method of story telling helps the couple maintain closeness and encourages positive regard for each other. Happy couples have an ability to look back over the years with affection and even when happily married couples experience hardships, they focus on their strength and their “we-ness” rather than focusing on specific struggles.
I enjoy helping couples rewrite their past and embrace a new narrative that empowers their partnership. If you would like help creating a new narrative for your marriage I invite you to start rewriting today.
To schedule a session with Tyler Stark ACMHC please call Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555.
As I talk with people day to day I have come to learn that many individuals adopted a belief in childhood that their worth is based on fixed criterion. For many individuals this way of seeing themselves happened quite passively. In families it materializes subtly as parents praise children for grades, winning a little league game, advancing in religious duties, and other product related praises. I imagine with very little prompting many of us can think of the conditions of worth that were established in the family we grew up in. A consequence of this praise style is that it only highlights the outcome of the child’s efforts, thus leading the child to feel that their worth is conditioned on their success or conformity.
Carl Rogers reports that in his early years as a clinician, he was asking the question, “How can I treat, or cure, or change this person?” This is a common approach taken by parents, coaches, and other individuals that have pure intentions of helping someone they love. The trouble is that this perspective continues to feed the self-belief that “I am not ok as I am”. Carl Rogers discovered, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” This statement helps us to understand that our energies will be better spent when focused on accepting those we love for who they are, and coaching them to do the same for themselves.
As Carl Rogers continued to practice psychotherapy he altered his perspective and rather than focusing on changing people he framed his approach this way, “How can I provide a relationship, which this person may use for his own personal growth?” As life moves so quickly we often get distracted by products and outcomes. Through Carl’s awareness, I am reminded that our relationships are what matter most, and if we invest in relationships built on acceptance, we can let go of our anxieties over outcomes.
Shame has been a popular psychotherapy topic in social media lately and due to its fame it is frequently on my mind. Today I’ve been thinking specifically about shame-based families and how this toxic feeling is often handed down through generations.
Shame can be passed through a family in myriad ways. A common path is for it to travel through family rules. With some prompting, maybe you can recall some of your family’s rules. What rules did your family have about touching and sexuality? What were the rules regarding marriage, money, vacations, religion, socializing…?
In John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame That Binds You he outlines 7 rules that are maintained by shame-based families.
Can children raised in dual-income households be happier than children raised by a stay-at-home parent? According to a landmark survey done by Ellen Galinsky (1999, 2005) the answer is yes! Galinsky found that children overwhelmingly endorse having both fathers and mothers working. It appears that the concern over who should work and how much they should work is largely limited to us as parents.
So what do children worry about? Through Galinsky’s surveys she found that children are focused on the time they have with their parents at home. They are concerned that when their parents are home, they be less stressed and tired and more emotionally available to them. Insert therapy buzzword [balance].
As parents we strive for balance, and whether or not they tell us directly, our children desire a balanced home. Here are ten practices that can support you and your partner as you work to attain balance in your home.
-Prioritize family time and well-being
-Emphasize overall equality and partnership, including joint decision making, equal influence over finances, and joint responsibility for housework
-Equally value each other’s work and life goals
-Share parental duties and “emotional work” of family life
-Maximize paly and fun at home
-Concentrate on work while at the workplace (If your home is also your workplace, make sure there is a well defined boundary between workspace/work time, and family space/family time)
-Take pride in family and in balancing multiple roles, and believing the family benefits from both parents working (rather than adsorbing the dominant cultural narrative of harm)
-Live simply, which includes limiting activities that impede active family engagement
-Adopt high but realistic expectations about household management; employing planning strategies that save time
-Be proactive in decision making and remain conscious of time’s value
Adapted from Normal Family Processes: Growing Diversity and Complexity, Fourth Edition By Froma Walsh PhD MSW
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Whether you identify as a partner in a relationship, a member of a family, or coworker at your job, chances are someone you trusted has emotionally hurt you. When we get hurt we often feel victimized and become carried away in thoughts of retribution or self-pity. It is actually common for us to feel more powerful in our victimhood and become stuck in anger and resentment. It can be easier to remain in this state when we believe forgiveness means forgetting because forgetting could set us up for repeated grief. How much do you know about real forgiveness?