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How To Overcome Fear & Take Emotional Risks In Relationships: Studio 5

Allowing another person to “step in your shoes” means letting them know what is really going on in your life. Studio 5 Contributor and Therapist, Julie Hanks, says that’s a risk many of us are simply not willing to take. Find out how to break through false fronts and let people in.


Level 1 – Doing (hands) Talking about action and external facts and events, like “What did you do today?” “I went to the store.”

Level 2 – Thinking (head) Conversations focused on thoughts and opinions, such as “I think that you’re a great mother” or “In my opinion, the only solution to the economy is…”

Level 3 – Feeling (heart) Sharing emotional experiences, like “I feel scared that I might lose my job” or “I felt so loved when you brought me dinner last week.”

Level 4 – Being (core/gut) Sharing a deep, emotional connection with another person at the same time. This is when you feel “felt” – you know that the other person “gets” you. This type of communication is honest and genuine, deep, meaningful, and rare.

What prevents us from letting others walk in our shoes? 4_0029

1) Fear of being hurt

“What if I open up my heart and they don’t care, they leave me, they don’t “get it”, or they don’t comfort me?” After being hurt in the past, we learn to protect from being hurt again, but that also keeps us from being close to others.

Solution: Decide to risk anyway

If it’s hard for you to let others “walk in your shoes” you have to make a conscious decision to take a risk to let others into on a deeper level. Honest self-disclosure is associated with higher levels of relationship satisfaction. When you share deeper experiences and emotions it invites others to share their heart with you. This invites intimacy. We all want to be known and loved. Intimacy = into me see

2) Worry what others will think

“I don’t want to appear weak. If I share vulnerability with someone, they may think I don’t have it all together.” We live in a culture that values strength and sharing emotional vulnerability may be perceived as weakness. But is it? I truly believe that the developing the ability and willingness to share emotional vulnerability is one of the most important relationship strengths we can develop. It is the key to fulfilling relationships.

Solution: Accept that you don’t have it all together

Everyone is weak AND strong. We need to lean on each other. When I get caught in the trap of wondering what others will think I rehearse this quote in my mind, “It’s none of my business what others think of me.”

3) Don’t want to burden others

“People have their own struggles. Why would they want to hear about mine? Do they really care anyway?” You may be aware of the burdens of your loved ones and want to protect them from additional stress.

Solution: Share, don’t dump

Sharing is opening up your heavy backpack and letting someone else see and feel the contents. Dumping is sharing the contents of your backpack and then trying to get the other person to carry your backpack for you.

4) I don’t know how

“That’s just not what I do. I wouldn’t know where to start to let some one really know me.” From birth we are born to emotionally connect with each other, so you do know how to be emotionally vulnerable on some level. As you developed you may have had experiences that taught you to guard your tender feelings. Some families are better at fostering deeper sharing of emotions than others. If you’ve never been in a relationship where you’ve been able to be yourself, it may be time to open up, just a little bit at a time.

Solution: Start small

Ask yourself, “What level am I sharing from?” and then see if you can move one level down. This is the crux of what I help clients with in therapy — to identify their internal experience and to share it in a meaningful way with loved ones.

Creative Commons License photo credit: theperplexingparadox

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The Key to Expectations in Relationships

We constantly hear how important expectations are in relationships.  However, many expectations in relationships are not discovered until they are NOT met by your partner.  When this happens suddenly expectations become a big deal and have the potential to become a wedge in any relationship.

It can be difficult to acknowledge, monitor and understand some expectations you may have, because they are developed and picked up throughout life.  We can unintentionally create expectations as a result of watching our parents’ behavior with each other.  Or, expectations can be created from experiences in past relationships.  Finally, media has a strong influence on expectations, as well as, what we are told by others (friends and family).

For example, you may have the expectation that your spouse will immediately come to you and try to work out a disagreement because you saw this behavior in your own parents.  If you become involved with a person who does not do this, but withdraws for a few minutes to calm down after a disagreement, your expectation could be unfulfilled and it could leave you feeling like your relationship has some major flaw.

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Don’t Board That Train: Stop Anxiety In Its Tracks

Bluebell Railway 22-10-2010I receive a newsletter each month from Happy People Win, and a story caught my eye about worry and anxiety. It seems as though we often use a lot of our energy worrying about things that have not yet happened or that are out of our control. In this newsletter, Jean Steel, a motivational speaker, told a story about a friend who recently had a suspicious mammogram and the doctor wanted to perform more tests. Her friend started worrying and started “what if’ing”, thinking of the worst case scenarios that could happen. Another friend looked at her and said, “Don’t board that train without a ticket.”

I thought that was a powerful insight. If we can remember to stop ourselves from worrying needlessly, it can help us reduce much of our anxiety, and we can use our energy on more positive emotions. So, as things come up for you and you start to worry, first ask yourself, “Am I boarding that train without a ticket?”
Creative Commons License photo credit: Karen Roe

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Let Back to School Inspire You: Studio 5

Back to school doesn’t have to be all about your kids. Let the start of a new school year inspire you. Therapist, Julie Hanks, has a grown-up perspective on back to school that can help improve your emotional health. I recently did an interview for Natural Health Magazine’s article “Back to School for Grown Ups” about channeling school day memories and fall’s energy to improve our lives as adults. Here’s a quote from the article:

The weather, certain smells, certain tastes-all of these things can trigger memories of earlier experiences,” says Julie Hanks LCSW, a psychotherapist in Salt Lake City. “Come fall, some women feel the same type of anticipation they did as kids and might even unconsciously find ways to relive or improve upon the experience.”

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Battling Summer Depression: KSL TV News

Holly Willard, LCSW on KSL TV News discusses Summertime Depression and how to cope.

Read more at KSL.com

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Read RelationTIPS June Newsletter “Summer’s Here” Issue

This month’s news letter is packed with resources to improve your marriage & family  relationships!

Parenting tips for college-age kids home for summer

3 small things that make a big difference in marriage

The 4-letter word husband’s hate

Help if your spouse has a “wandering eye”

and a NEW section dedicated to providing resources for mental health professional!

Read out June Issue here

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Ask a Therapist: I’m scared to see a therapist for my eating disorder

Q: I started out with anorexia but now am bulimic/anorexic and have been this way for about 3 yrs now. I am on a binge/purge cycle and have purged everyday at least since November. One person knows about my ED and I am so scared to get help even though I know that I need it. I am fully aware of the dangers of bulimia. I am being treated for one of the symptoms of bulimia, which is passing out because of malnutrition. However, the doctors did not figure out that it is due to an ED. I’m 18 so I can get help without my family knowing which is a big deal for me because I can not let them know. They have a lot to deal with right now plus my mother does not really understand how to deal with things. Shes Bipolar and every once in a while has a Schizophrenic episode. I am scared of my father and stay away from him so I can’t tell him either, my whole family dynamic is screwy. However, I am considering getting help for my ED. What should I expect if I do decide to go to a therapist? What kind of questions will they ask me. Thanks for your help.

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Psych Central’s Live FB Event to Feature Julie Hanks

Julie Hanks, LCSW will be among 4 therapists from PsychCentral.com‘s “Ask the Therapist” column answering your mental health and relationship questions in a first ever international LIVE Facebook event this Saturday, Feb. 26.

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Here’s what to do to participate in this rare event:

1) “Like” PsychCentral on Facebook

2) Visit PsychCentral FB page this Saturday, Feb. 26 between 2-5 PM MT

3) Post your relationship and mental health questions & get advice from 4 different therapists.

Julie is the newest therapist to join the “Ask the Therapist” team on Psych Central — the Internet’s largest and oldest independent mental health and psychology network.

Visit Julie’s Psych Central profile and see her Q & A’s

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Exercise For Your Mental Health: Studio 5

Julie Hanks, LCSW on KSL TV’s Studio 5

Read more on JulieHanks.com

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Sisters Improve Mental Health: Studio 5

Studio 5 Contributor, Julie Hanks, LCSW with Wasatch Family Therapy has tips to help you tap into the positive power of sisters.

A recent New York Times essay “Why sisterly chats make people happier” by Deborah Tannen caught my eye because I have five, yes, FIVE sisters. I love research that supports what I already know from real-life experience — sisters are important to mental health. Having a sister protects teens against feelings of depression, loneliness, self-consciousness, fear, and being unloved according to Laura Padilla-Walker, head researcher in a recent BYU study.

The positive impact of sisters extends beyond adolescence into adulthood. British researchers Liz Wright and Tony Cassidy found that people who grew up with at least one sister were happier more motivated, had more friends, and were more resilient during difficult times, especially during parental divorce.

Here are some tips for helping your children, sisters AND brothers, develop close, positive relationships with each other during childhood and adolescence so they will continue to support emotional health as adults.

Tips to Help Your Kids Help Each Other

1) Show Affection

Encourage your family to express physical affection, to notice and express positive traits, to increase emotional sensitivity to siblings, and to celebrate other sibling’s successes. Affection is an important aspect that contributes to the positive mental health outcomes among siblings, According to Padilla-Walker, “An absence of affection seems to be a bigger problem than high levels of conflict.”

A-list star Gwenyth Paltrow, and her producer brother, Jake Paltrow are a great example of affectionate siblings raised in a loving home.

2) Express Emotion

Healthy emotional expression is a crucial component to emotional health. Wright & Cassidy found that in families whose parents divorce, sisters tended to express themselves, and encourage emotional expression in others leading to less distress.

Coach your children to express feelings to their siblings in a non-attacking way. Here’s an excellent tool to help your children communicate their emotion:

I feel (emotion word) when you (other’s specific behavior) because I think (thought) . I would like it if you would (requested behavior) .

Here’s an example: “I feel mad when you take my clothes without asking because I think you don’t respect my privacy. I would like it if you would ask me before you borrow my clothes.”

When single mother Jennifer Child’s daughter was diagnosed with cancer her sisters were her strength.
“I have 2 sisters whose lives CHANGED when my daughter was diagnosed. I was a young single mom, my sisters PULLED me through~ I COULD NOT have made it through without my family. We pulled together and somehow made it through this HORRIFIC time in our life. My sisters are my best friends. I now have 2 daughters, 6 and 7 they are best friends. They do fight like NO OTHER, but love each other as I have seen with my sisters.”

3) Show Kindness

Coach your children to treat each other with respect, thoughtfulness, and kindness. Having a loving sibling of any gender seems to promote kindness and empathy toward others, according to Padilla-Walker. Interestingly, the relationship between positive sibling relationships and good deeds was twice as strong as the relationship between parenting and a child’s good deeds.

Mother of eight children, Andrya Lewis, promotes kindness among her children “by having sleepovers on Friday nights with movies and treats and sleeping bags, by letting siblings tell good news and surprises and

distribute treats to the other siblings, and by verbally interpreting and translating that acts of kindness or service (like sharing a toy, or finding a lost shoe) mean their sibling loves them.”

4) Communicate Often

Tannen’s research found that women talk with sisters more often, at greater length, and about more personal topics than they do with brothers. She concludes that the frequency of contact with sisters, not necessarily the content of the communication, is most important component contributing to the positive impact of having a sister.

Annie Frazier says she checks in with her older sister Jennie Gochnour by text or phone every other day. “It’s not always a big conversation; often it’s just a check in. We share everything and it’s not judged. We have gotten each other through everything – deaths, marriages, and divorce. She’s the only reason I’m not in intensive therapy! I particularly remember one day when we were running together in the early morning. I was going through infertility treatments and hoping to get pregnant – despite the reality of the months of darkness that I knew were around the corner with my postpartum depression. I don’t remember what she said, but I remember what I felt. In her eyes, I could not have been any more wonderful – even though in my eyes, all I saw was failure, sadness and inadequacies. She was my crutch and has carried me along many dark roads that have led to beautiful moments of celebration. She has always been by my side.”

5) Minimize conflict

Set family rules of no name-calling and no physical fighting, and don’t be afraid to intervene in your children’s fights. High levels of sibling conflict is associated with increased risk aggression in other relationships, and increased delinquent behavior, but on the positive side, a little bit of conflict gives siblings a chance to practice emotional control and problem solving skills.

According to Oracne Price, mother to tennis superstar sisters, Venus and Serena Williams, though they are fiercely competitive on the court, her daughters are very close friends.

Do you have a sister? How has she impacted your mental health?

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