Be more like a duck than a dog!

Here is another metaphor for you:

Think about a lake with a cute little family of ducks swimming around.  They are peaceful and content with the world in which they live.  Now they see you and they see that you have bread crumbs for them.  They paddle their little feet toward you and hop out of the water effortlessly, shake their little tails and they waddle over to eat your breadcrumbs.  Pretty simple, right?

Now…consider you are at the same lake and you see a dog swimming across.  It’s doing the dog paddle with much effort, tiring itself out.  As it sees you pull out the bag of bread, it turns toward you and makes a b-line for the shore.  You immediately have the thought “oh no…” and sure as you assumed, the dog drags itself out of the lake and heads toward you.  Then in shakes…and shakes…and shakes.  Does it smell good, heavens no…that dog STINKS and it’s wet.  No matter how much it rubs on the ground, shakes itself off and runs in circles, the dog stays stinky and wet.  No one wants to be around a wet dog.

Who do you want to be?  In this metaphor, the pond is life.  Life will throw all kinds of stuff at you.  Whether it’s an insult from a peer, a difficult to interpret look from someone, financial problems, fatigue, etc…It is your choice whether you shake your tail and move on without overly attaching to the situation or whether you allow it to soak into your being and weigh you down.  If someone looks at you funny or says something to you, just move on….let it go…head up, shoulders back.  If you make a mistake paying a bill, you have a choice between berating yourself and getting depressed or owning up to it, fixing it and moving on!

Remember also that your emotional reaction affects others…fewer people want to be around a smelly wet dog; just as fewer people will want to be around a negative, pessimistic person.  People DO want to be around a level-headed and emotionally stable person! You attract what you put out there, make sure you are attracting the right kind of friends. 



Your Two Radios

I LOVE metaphors.  You may have noticed…DBT is jokingly referred to as the therapy of metaphors and I am admittedly a conformist in this regard.  One of my new favorite metaphors about mindfully tuning into healthier thinking patterns.  Here we go:

Imagine that you have two radios playing; one on each side of your head (or headphones on with a different station playing in each ear).  Ugh…how annoying would that be!  I get so anxious when I am hearing two messages simultaneously; when people are trying to talk over each other or someone is trying to talk over the television/radio.  This is, in many ways, what it is like inside of the head of someone struggling with symptoms of anxiety or depression.  One radio (typically the louder one) is shouting messages similar to: you aren’t good enough, why don’t you give up, why do you even try, no one likes you, you should stay home, you are worthless etc.  The other radio or headphone is very quietly whispering one or two healthier thoughts: you can do this, you are worth something, people enjoy your company. 

Mindfulness is about non-judgmentally accepting the present moment, and choosing where you will put your full attention.  Huh??? Ok…stay with me…how this works is that you

  1. Acknowledge the mixed messages that you hear internally.
  2. Choose to turn down the volume on the negative messages. Visualize turning the volume knob down. This involves that you CHOOSE to stop clinging to the negative statements.  Stop yourself from looking for reasons the thoughts are right, stop twisting reality.  Imagine dropping the thoughts on the ground and walking away.
  3. Now choose to turn your attention TOWARD the volume knob on the healthier thoughts and turn the volume up! These thoughts may not be overtly positive; they may be neutral and that is ok.  They could be maybe thoughts instead of absolutes (I.e. maybe I will have a decent day.  Maybe I will enjoy the get together. Maybe today will be better than I think).  The thoughts COULD even be positive! (I.e. I am excited to attend this event.  I am proud of myself for getting out of bed.  I know my family loves me).

I am NOT suggesting that you go from Debbie Downer to Suzy Sunshine all at once. Normal Nancy is a great gal! Come visit me in the land of average and see if you can turn away from pessimistic, negative, all-or-nothing thinking and turn toward neutral, content, average thinking.  Bonus points for allowing yourself to think 1-2 optimistic thoughts!



Why I Write

Some people ask why I write.  I have been trying hard to formulate an adequate answer. I only write and blog from experience at this point; however, I do enjoy writing fiction as a hobby.  As I try to catch the words and phrases in my mind associated with why I write, one big one stands out: accountability.  Naturally I write because I enjoy helping others, I have a passion for sharing ideas that have helped me or others I have counseling, I like the mental de-cluttering that happens as I put words into sentences onto paper; but mostly, I love that it holds me accountable.

I am a therapist.  I am also, as it turns out, a human.  A normal, fallible, prone to making mistakes human: I fall into negative self-talk, catastrophic thinking, bouts of being bummed etc.  Writing about these topics holds a mirror up to my face for me to look into.  I often tell my clients that I would never preach something that I do not practice.  I find that when I don’t blog, I don’t think as logically as I could be thinking.  It is apparent to me that teaching 2-3 DBT (therapy) skills classes per week is a huge BLESSING.  Every week I stand in front of 10-12 people and tell them what to do for optimal mental health; why would I ignore a message I so passionately believe in?  I do not profess to be a picture of mental perfection as I do not believe that exists.  Hypothetically speaking, the Suzy Sunshine’s of the world likely have more baggage to unpack than the Debbie Downers.  I strive to be a Normal Nancy.

Of course, there are secondary gains for blogging: I also like to think of blogging is a way to send little messages through the week to some of my clients who are having a rough week.  Sort of an “I’m still here” nudge to get them back on track.  For those of you that I’ve never met (WordPress tells me that people are reading these posts from different states and countries around the world), maybe the post will push you to find a therapist in your city; to seek out DBT (as that is my theoretical orientation and if you like me, you’ll like DBT).

So what about you? Why do you read blogs? What do you do to hold yourself accountable?  What works in your world to keep you moving?  I’d love to know as I am sure other’s would love the ideas too!



This is a topic that comes up a LOT in my field.  How do I forgive myself? Why should I forgive myself? HOW do I forgive myself? No one else would forgive me, so why should I?

Just as when you forgive another for a transgression, forgiveness of yourself opens a doorway to peace and tranquility.  Forgiving your own past actions allows you space to grow and heal, rather than staying stagnant with anger, self hatred and/or shame.  In order to learn how to forgive anyone (including yourself), you must first understand the benefits.

Forgiveness really is the ultimate freedom.  It is not to approve of the situation, rather to make a conscious choice not to be ruled by the anger you carry.  Forgiveness is a choice to free yourself from hostility, anger, and irritability as they are all secondary consequences of resentment.  Holding onto anger aimed at your own actions or traits will lead you down a spiral of shame, into a pit of despair.  Can you imagine the freedom and peace you would feel if you WHOLEY let go of the anger you carry towards the actions of your past self? Can you imagine being able to look yourself in the eye and NOT feeling any negativity? Imagine no longer spending ANY time remembering how angry you are at that person or yourself. There is an action required in order to forgive. The action is internal and only you will know it has been taken initially; others will become aware as they notice the change in your walk.  The lightness of each step.  The playfulness of each moment.  The freedom with which you greet each day.

Just as you learn to strengthen any muscle in your body with weightlifting or to improve your stamina with cardio workouts, you must start small and work your way up to the “big things”.

  • Start with forgiving yourself for not getting to bed on time which led to your fatigue today.
  • Start with forgiving your child self for falling of your bike and scarring your knee.
  • Start with forgiving yourself for yelling at the other drivers in traffic on your commute again this morning.
  • Start with forgiving yourself for not keeping in better touch with your family
  • Start with forgiving yourself for the negative self talk that you fall into
  • Start with forgiving yourself for eating too much candy or too few vegetables (or both)
  • Start with forgiving yourself for the “stupid things” you did in high school
  • Start by forgiving yourself for falling into the gossip trap again

Forgiveness requires you to state OUT LOUD and preferably looking at yourself in the mirror “I forgive your for _____________”.  “I know you are doing the best you can”.  “I love you”.  “I care about you”.  “I wish you well”. 

Please remember how stubborn you are (I say this with love) because forgiveness will not be a one time deal.  It will require you to look at yourself every day…multiple times per day…even per hour.  It will require you to make eye contact with yourself and reminding yourself that you are worth it.  You deserve the freedom associated with making peace with the past.

I wish you well.  You are worth it.  Please forgive yourself and make room for all of the wonderful changes that will flood into your life as a result.


Consider the following quote before you resume your day:

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong” – Mahatma Gandhi



Review: Fidget Cube

Fidget Cube


I was so excited to see this product on Kickstarter and even more excited when they began to actually produce them! Naturally I purchased…a few.  As a therapist, I keep a basket of fidget and soothing items in my office for clients.  I always look for new and unique items to add.  (Currently lotion and a specific fox stress ball are the fan favorites!)

I have been able to observe the cube in many settings, with many ages of user.  The fidget cube was a hit with my kids at home (ages 2 and 4), who thought the switch held special powers: such as to the power to turn on the car.  They did fight over it…not sure why I expected any different…which tells me that they indeed enjoyed it.  They especially enjoyed playing with it on car rides.  Second experience: a kid at church had one, about 5 people away from me and one row up.  This was a TERRIBLE experience for me.  He incessantly flipped the switch side, which DOES make a noise.  Back and forth…back and forth…back and forth…let me tell you: I was having some hostile urges at church! Third experience is in my office. For the clients who enjoy things to fidget with, they report high levels of satisfaction.  The “joystick” and the “light switch” sides seem to be the most used. Some people fidget with it for the duration of their 45 or 55 minute session without even realizing it!

Personally, I am sensitive to noise in my environment.  For this reason, I do not like that several of the sides make noises.  The gears, the light switch, and the 5 round buttons all make various degrees of (annoying) noises.  I see this as a design flaw as I know many client parents had been wanting to purchase a fidget cube for their child in the classroom setting.  I think it could be an excellent asset for people who need to fidget while working in an office or students doing homework, as long as there aren’t others close by!


My first attempt at “sharing a post”. Hang with me…technology isn’t my friend!

This is how I feel about therapy today….I’m hiding in my husband’s dressing gown refusing to get dressed. I’m facebook messaging two people. I’m writing this all at the same time. I am trying to mentally avoid horrible stuff in my head that I know I will confront in therapy later. Avoidance avoidance avoidance That […]

via THERAPY….noooooooooo not the elephant 🙁 — summer SHINES


Dress for (mental) success

Have you even noticed how energized and confident you feel when you dress nicely?   You would never wear sweatpants or pajamas on a first date (I hope)!  You would not go to a job interview with your hair a mess and not showering for three days (I hope!).  One function of your attire is to communicate to others who you are and how you want to be treated.  Pajamas in public do not communicate a desire for respect.  Your attire also communicates to YOURSELF!  I know that when I am dressed nicely, my posture is better, my confidence is up, my eye contact is improved…low and behold, I am in a better mood!  In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) we teach a skill called Opposite action which encourages folks to identify their problematic urge associated with an emotion that they’d like to change and DO THE OPPSITE.  Seems bizarre, right?  Think about depression…when you are feeling sad, unmotivated, depressed, or lonely I would venture to guess that you have urges to stay in bed, not shower, and if you HAVE to get out of bed…to wear your pajamas or “comfy clothes”.  WRONG! Please do not do that…it only serves to feed the depression.

  • Step one: GET UP
  • Step two: BATHE
  • Step three: use products (lotion, hair products, perfume/cologne)
  • Step four: wear the nicest clothes that are socially appropriate for your daily tasks
  • Step five: get to it.  Get to your day, get to work, run errands, visit people, etc.

I PROMISE that it will ease up the mood.  These actions do not fix depression, they are not a replacement for medication and/or therapy; however they are an excellent and inexpensive step toward you regaining control.