Karuna Counseling’s Newsletter Articles

February 17, 2011

How to Be a Good Listener

Filed under: 2011 Articles,Not by Karuna,Relationships & Intimacy — karunacounseling @ 5:46 pm
Tags: ,

How to Be a Good Listener: 12 Ways to Listen Closely…and Kindly

By Lori Hope

(Reprinted from Beliefnet.com)

A magnificent array of diverse and unique individuals populate this beautiful planet, but as different as we are, we share at least one fundamental need: to feel heard and understood. Most of us would like to think we can easily satisfy that need with our friends and loved ones, but we often fall short. I know I do. I learned that when I had cancer, and instead of finding open ears, I often encountered open mouths eager to spout advice or share stories. I saw myself in those people, and consequently set out to do unto others as I wished they had done unto me. I wrote a book fundamentally about listening, and I discovered along the way a huge bonus. I was not only a better friend, but I was able to attract new ones. So listen up – learn the art of listening – and feel the love!

First, Practice Actively

Listening well is an art – a skill honed by practice, study, and observation. And though it seems passive – after all, people talk TO us – it is indeed an activity and can require great effort. Seeing genuine listening to be active listening will prepare you for the immensely satisfying work it takes to really hear someone.

Open Your Eyes

Good listening isn’t just about ears, it’s about eyes. Maintain eye contact, and don’t give into the temptation to glance around. I’ll never forget meeting John Kennedy Jr. at a reception in New York, and noticing that while I spoke, his eyes never left mine, even though we were surrounded by luminaries. I felt like the most important person on Earth. Also, read the speaker’s body language; if their eyes are not meeting yours, they may feel uncomfortable or could be hiding something.

Move your Body

When you’re truly engaged, your body reacts by leaning forward, and your pupils dilate. Though you can’t control your pupils, you can show you’re listening by moving your body instead of your mouth. Nod; move forward in your chair; and if you’re close enough, physically and emotionally, gently touch the speaker’s arm.

Keep Your Mouth Closed

“Keep your ears and eyes open and your mouth shut!” commanded a boot camp officer in a documentary I made years ago. When I’m about to listen to a friend who needs to talk, I think of that or “You have two ears and one mouth; use them in that proportion,” and remind myself to count to at least two before speaking. (By the way, keeping your lips together still allows you to give that most vital vocal sign, a soft “mmm-hmmm” that shows you are listening.)

Forget Yourself

It’s natural to relate what someone else says to your own experience and respond without thinking (I sometimes call that “blurting”), but considerate listeners keep their focus on the speaker. Even though you may have something important to say, try not to worry about how wise, clever, or empathetic you’d like to appear. Just concentrate on the speaker, which belies your wisdom and compassion more than anything.

Don’t Interrupt

As tempting as it is to interject your thoughts, hold back. It’s insulting to cut someone off when she’s voicing an opinion, but it’s even more hurtful when she’s sharing a feeling, especially a difficult one. When you interrupt, it can feel like a denial or discounting of your friend’s emotions.

Resist Multi-tasking

Most of us have become adept at cleaning off our desks or even checking Facebook while talking on the phone, but if you really want to hear what someone’s saying, it’s a good idea to let go of everything else while you’re involved with your conversation. Even if you’re only cleaning the kitchen counter, it’s easy to get lost in the sponge or the stubborn stain instead of the details of your friend’s story.

Limit Possible Distractions

“I know my own face has fallen when someone listening to me [a caregiver who has trouble even asking for time for myself], stops me in the middle of some gut wrenching moment to answer a call,” said my friend Dana Hopkins, a cancer survivor who took care of her husband when he had cancer. She advises turning off your cell phone when you really want to listen. Not only will it limit distractions, but will signal to the speaker that you’re serious about hearing what he has to say.

Be a Mirror, Not a Window

Listening is not about inviting people into your soul; it’s about entering theirs. To let them know you’re hearing them, reflect back to them what you think they’ve just said, with a “What I think I hear you saying is that…” or “It sounds like what you’re saying is…”

“Mother, May I …..?”

Remember what your mamma taught you? “Say ‘please,’” or in other words, ask permission, especially before offering advice. Sometimes a loved one just needs to vent or talk, and feel heard. They may not want to hear what they should or shouldn’t say, do, or feel, and if you ask, “Would you like my take on this?” you let them know they’re not only being heard but also respected.

Withhold Judgment

When I produced documentaries about homeless people, teen parents, and others facing tremendously difficult life challenges, they easily opened up to me about their deepest fears and desires, and I think it’s partly because I was able to suspend any judgment about them, and just listen with an open heart and mind. Most of us can tell when we’re being judged, and clamp up accordingly.

Don’t Interrogate — Do Ask Gentle Questions

When you question someone too intensely, it can feel voyeuristic – like you’re more interested in learning something than actually hearing someone. So when you do get an opportunity to ask questions, ask open-ended ones that give the speaker a choice, such as “Do you want to tell me more about that?” Encourage your friend to elaborate or discover things themselves by asking, “What did that feel like?” Or “What options are you considering?”

Empathize

In addition to reserving judgment, try to put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. What are they feeling? How would you feel? When you put yourself in that head-and-heart space, you can’t help but listen well; that is when you feel compassion — a word which means “to feel with” – and truly understand.

Lori Hope is the author of Help Me Live: 20 Things People with Cancer Want You to Know. Visit her online at LoriHope.com.

November 5, 2008

Coping with Holiday Stress

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Not by Karuna — karunacounseling @ 8:30 am
Tags: ,

By the American Psychological Association

The holidays can be fun, but they also can be a source of great stress — and no wonder. The holidays are often depicted as a magical time when people reconcile and dreams come true.

How Can You Deal With Continuing Family Problems During The Holidays?

Being realistic is the first step. If you have bad feelings about someone, try and avoid him or her and not make an issue of it but don’t pretend that all is well. This will enable you to feel true to yourself and less stressed out.

Do Financial Pressures Stress People Out to the Point of Ruining the Holiday Spirit?

Knowing your spending limit is also a way to relieve holiday stress. People believe that they have to go out and buy gifts because it’s the holidays, even if they can’t afford to do so. Not only is it stressful to feel that you have to buy everyone an expensive gift, but you’ll be stressed for the rest of the year trying to pay off your bills. You can show love and caring by getting something that you know is meaningful and personal for that person that doesn’t have to cost a lot.

How Do Time Pressures Affect People Around the Holidays?

People shouldn’t have to put their lives on pause or totally rearrange their schedules either because of the holidays. Learn to prioritize the invitations you accept and don’t feel that you have to go to every holiday gathering.

How Does a Person Deal With the Holidays When He or She Has Just Experienced A Recent Tragedy, Death or Romantic Break-up?

If you’re feeling really out of sorts because of any chronic or current stressors, like a death or recent romantic break-up, you may want to avoid some of the festivities because they are so out of sync with how you’re feeling. Try to tell those around you what you really need, since they may not know how to help you, and ask for their understanding if you decline an activity.

How Do You Cope With Kids Who Want Everything For The Holidays and Have No Sense of What Things Cost?

Parents need to tell their children to be realistic. It is OK to say to your child that a certain toy is too expensive. And even Santa Claus has limited funds and has to choose what to give because he has a very long list. You can also tell your children that Mom and Dad and Santa Claus will try to choose the most suitable present for the child. Children have to learn that their wish is not someone’s command and to curb their desires for instant gratification.

What Are Some Good Coping Strategies?

Take stock of your expectations and make sure they’re realistic. Don’t expect more of this time of year than of any other. Take a break from holiday music and television specials if you find that they’re turning you into “Scrooge.”

Most people dread the holidays because their inner experience is so different from what is being hyped. You should trust your own instincts and don’t try to be what you’re not. Keep up your normal routine and know that this day will pass too.

If, however, you are unable to shake what you think are “holiday blues” your feelings may not be about the holidays, but about other things in your life. If you need help in sorting out or dealing with this issue, a psychologist is a person with the training to help you do so. Call one of Karuna’s therapists.

Thanks to Dorothy Cantor, Psy.D., a private practitioner in Westfield, N.J., and a former president of the American Psychological Association.

(c) Copyright 2004 American Psychological Association

Documents from apahelpcenter.org may be reprinted in their entirety with credit given to the American Psychological Association. Any exceptions to this, including requests to excerpt or paraphrase documents from apahelpcenter.org, must be presented in writing to helping@apa.org and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Permission for exceptions will be given on a one-time-only basis and must be sought for each additional use of the document.

March 10, 2008

How Do You Respond?

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Not by Karuna — karunacounseling @ 4:46 pm
Tags: , ,

by Dr. Gene Clerkin

Most people probably don’t know this, but there is a difference between illness and having a disease. There are many people that have no presentable disease symptoms yet they are very ill. Some people have a disease and are well at the same time. How can that be? How can someone have a disease and be well all at the same time?

I’ve heard that quite a few people have recently endured the cleansing that may occur in conjunction with some flu or virus. Apparently it can be pretty uncomfortable. The other day one of my clients who survived this bout commented on her experience. Even though she felt physically horrible, she experienced it from a different perspective than in the past. She had trust that her body knew exactly what it was doing to cleanse itself. Instead of having the feeling of being victimized she felt empowered by the process.

That is a perfect example of wellness behavior.

Illness is not about the symptom; rather it is about the state of mind a person has about that symptom, and for that matter, every other aspect of their life. In illness behavior we react to the processes of the body and of life with fear. Wait a second…we were talking about symptoms and sickness and now we’re talking about life?

I also have another client who had recently been confronted with some very major life challenges. A good many people would respond to her situation by shutting down and going into a defensive or protective physiology repeating the cycle of unending anxiety and depression about the present situation. We call that “stage one” in the healing process. So what did she say? Loosely quoted, “I know this will be a challenge but, I’m sure there is a reason for this and that ultimately it creates new opportunities for change and growth.”>

Wow, that is wellness behavior.

Protective or defensive physiology does not allow for that kind of response. When we’re in stress physiology the part of the brain that allows for a conscious observation and healthy response is unavailable. Since we’re only accessing the lower or reactive part of our brain, our responses are skewed by the filter of our past wounds.

When we experience a situation that is deemed unsafe, uncomfortable or damaging to our sense of self, our brain goes into defensive physiology to protect itself from that information. We release chemicals that effect heart rate, blood pressure, and cause us to tighten down and become inflexible. If we continue in that state, which most people do, our system is not flexible enough to adapt to new and potentially stressful information.

Wellness and illness are about how we respond and adapt to our symptoms and to our life. How would you respond to a symptom, a disease or a life crisis? How have you responded in the past? The answer to those questions will help you get an idea of your own level of wellness.

It might also be noted that wellness is open ended, which means that you can always achieve a greater level of it. In fact, in a research study conducted at the University of California, it was found that people in Network Care, tracked over a period of nine years, appeared to have no ceiling to the level of wellness they experienced. Network Care operates in the wellness model helping people develop strategies to recover from stress physiology, adapt to future stresses and access the part of the brain which enables healthier choices and responses….regardless of symptoms.

For more information about Dr. Gene please visit

www.centerforholistichealth.com

March 6, 2006

The RHETI Sampler – Free Personality Test

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Mind-body-spirit Integration,Not by Karuna — karunacounseling @ 4:59 pm
Tags: , ,

The RHETI Sampler’s 36 questions are only a part of the full, scientifically validated 144-question Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI, Version 2.5) personality inventory. Short personality quizzes such as the RHETI Sampler cannot guarantee that your basic personality type will be indicated, although your type will most likely be one of the top three scores in this free quiz. We recommend that you read the type descriptions at the end of this test, and in Riso-Hudson Enneagram books, to help you identify your basic personality type.

Take the RHETI Sampler Free Personality Test Now

February 9, 2006

7 Ways To Nurture Yourself

1. Make the choice to be generous and treat yourself to something you’ve been longing for. Spend time with friends, cuddle up with a favorite book or give yourself permission to just do nothing.

2. Forgive yourself for one act of self-sabotage. When we learn from our past we are able to receive it as a blessing. This opens the door to compassion and forgiveness.

3. Focus on one aspect of yourself that you love and acknowledge it for the way it has contributed to your life. This could be a physical characteristic like your eyes or your heart or it could be a positive quality like your decisiveness or sensitivity.

4. Close your eyes and acknowledge yourself for 10 positive choices that you made today – even for the simple things like getting out of bed or returning a phone call.

5. Make the choice to embrace one aspect of yourself that you dislike. Every quality comes bearing gifts – search and find a powerful interpretation of this aspect of you.

6. Allow others to love you up! Call two friends and ask them to share with you three things they love and admire about you.

7. Commit to having an extraordinary life. Take one bold action today: Find a [therapist], take a course you’ve been thinking about, or join a sacred community dedicated to conscious living.

 

These tips are from Debbie Ford’s newsletter.  In addition to “inspiring humanity to lead fully integrating lives,” Debbie Ford (www.debbieford.com) presents workshops and publishes books such as The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, Spiritual Divorce, Why Good People Do Bad Things, and The Right Questions. If you would like more information about the application of integrative shadow work principals in psychotherapy and personal growth, you can reach Metta Sweet Johnson, LCSW, MAT at (404) 221-3238.

February 19, 2005

Yoga to Soothe the Mind

Adaptedfrom www.yogajournal.com

Uttanasana
(Standing Forward Bend )

Despite its name, which means “intense stretch” pose, Uttanasana will wake up your hamstrings and soothe your mind.

(OOT-tan-AHS-ahna)
ut = intense
tan = to stretch or extend

Benefits

  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Stimulates the liver and kidneys
  • Stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hips
  • Strengthens the thighs and knees
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
  • Reduces fatigue and anxiety
  • Relieves headache and insomnia
  • Therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, infertility,
    osteoporosis, and sinusitis

Contraindications/Cautions

Back injury: Do this pose with bent knees, or perform Ardha Uttanasana (pronounced ARE-dah, ardha = half), with your hands on the wall, legs perpendicular to your torso, and arms parallel to the floor.

Step by Step

•Stand in Tadasana, hands on hips. Exhale and bend forward from the hip joints, not from the waist. As you descend draw the front torso out of the groins and open the space between the pubis and top sternum. As in all the forward bends, the emphasis is on lengthening the front torso as you move more fully into the position.

• If possible, with your knees straight, bring your palms or finger tips to the floor slightly in front of or beside your feet, or bring your palms to the backs of your ankles. If this isn’t possible, cross your forearms and hold your elbows. Press the heels firmly into the floor and lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling. Turn the top thighs
slightly inward.

• With each inhalation in the pose, lift and lengthen the front torso just slightly; with each exhalation release a little more fully into the forward bend.  In this way the torso oscillates almost imperceptibly
with the breath.  Let your head hang from the root of the neck, which is deep in the upper back, between the shoulder blades.

• Uttanasana can be used as a resting position between the standing poses. Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. It can also be practiced as a pose in itself.

• Don’t roll the spine to come up. Instead bring your hands back onto your hips and reaffirm the length of the front torso. Then press your tailbone down and into the pelvis and come up on an inhalation
with a long front torso.

Modifications & Props

To increase the stretch on the backs of the legs, stand in the forward bend with the balls of your feet elevated an inch or more off the floor on a sand bag or thick book.

Variation

Padangusthasana (not to be confused with Supta
Padangusthasana
).

After bending forward, slide the index and middle finger of each hand in between the big toe and second toe of each foot. Then curl the fingers under the bottom and around the big toe and wrap your
thumb around your fingers. With an inhalation straighten your arms and lift your front torso away from your thighs, making your back as concave as possible. Hold for a few breaths, then exhale and lengthen down and forward, bending your elbows out to the sides.

Preparatory Poses

Blog at WordPress.com.