The Benefit in Looking Back

Sometimes, when life feels toughest and we're wondering why we make the same decisions and get stuck in the same, often painful, patterns, the best idea is to look backwards, to childhood. I don’t want to knock looking toward the future, or being in the moment, but there are crucial times when the answer to our struggles is in the past. Seven is an important year in child development. It's a general time when we are realizing that we are truly separate from other human beings, particularly our parents. We learn empathy, or an awareness of how someone else might feel, and have a slightly more mature understanding of our place in the world. Because of these changes, seven is a good touchstone

The 3 Layers of Healing Depression & Grief

Lately I’ve been working with a lot people facing grief, whether it’s the loss of youth, financial security, a house or a loved one. And it’s occurred to me that when we talk together about how to feel better, the ideas fall neatly into three categories. I’ve taken to calling these tiers Past (feeling the real sadness and anger about what we’ve lost or what we think we’ve done wrong); Present (living in the moment and realizing what’s good and strong about it); and Future (connecting to hope and faith as a way of planning for better days). This model appeals to me for several reasons. For one, it’s an easy template to call up when you’re feeling distressed. You can run through the tiers and

Want to Help Your Kids? Start By Not Helping Them

Whether it’s sleep training, shoe tying, or school projects, there are thousands of moments when parents have to sit on their hands and let their children struggle. We know it’s important for them to learn things on their own, but watching them cry and writhe through a challenge is one of hardest tasks of parenthood. Ironically, it’s our wonderful and natural parental instinct that makes it so tough to stop ourselves from helping. The drive that pushes us to comfort a crying baby; visit the emergency room instead of giggling when a toddler eats a ball bearing (that was my Christmas break 2008); or insist that a cranky preteen finish just one bite of cauliflower is the same drive that makes u

A Better Way to Sidestep Shame

Some emotions cause an almost physical pain, and shame is one of them. I’ve heard people describe it as a knife in their gut; a slave driver wielding a whip; or a gray blanket weighing them down. It’s also lonely—despite being a common feeling and part of everyone’s experience, shame can make a person feel as if he or she is the only one who has ever dealt with it. I talk a lot to people in therapy about “leaning in” to feelings they think of as “bad” (sadness and anger, for example), and working on accepting them. And this is an important step. But other times, we just need to put difficult feelings aside. Not indefinitely, so they’re rejected or crammed down, only to bounce up again. But t

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