The Somehow Theory

The Somehow Theory is a story that holds me. I hope it offers you some holding and hope too....

The first time I remember asking, I'm five years old and we're sitting in a flower print swivel club chair in the mirrored living room. It's the early 80s.

I sit on grandpa’s lap, cuddle into him and trace the green tattooed numbers on his left forearm with my index finger, over and over just the same as I locate each freckle on his arm. These are his markings. I know them by heart. Perhaps what I know even more than anything is the love I feel sitting on his lap as I trace. This is my safe space. “Grandpa, what do these numbers mean?”

The Somehow Theory

“These numbers,” he tells me, this time and countless times to come, “are my story. And you, are my reason for living.” These are big words to land on the shoulders and in the heart of a child still small and innocent enough to nestle into grandpa’s lap for a journey into the stories that follow all the “why’s” I so naturally provoke him with.

He tells me he has so many stories in him but he’s promised himself not to share most of them with me. “You don’t need to know it all,” he says gently. He can’t bear for me to. After all, I'm his reason for living.

Over the years he tells me his stories in small bursts; about how the family was separated immediately after getting off the cattle cars at Aushwitz. One of my grandfather's brothers was carrying their invalid father, a WW1 hero, followed by his mother and two sisters. When they arrived, they were all sent to the left. My grandfather, on his own, was sent to the right. He survived. Later that day, he asked another prisoner when he'd see his family again. The prisoner responded by shouting to him, “Look up, you see that smoke," he said. "There they are." And so he knew. Not even twenty fours hours after entering the camp, he knew what was in store for them all.

He also shared so many stories about liberation. My grandfather and his two buddies, whom he’d bonded together and survived with in camp, went looking for a sister who they had heard survived at Bergen Belsen. They didn’t find her. Instead they met three women, among them my grandmother. The women were still living in the camp when they met. The men told them they’d be back when they had a place for them to live, then they'd marry them. The women laughed. Who were these men? These three newly liberated men used their moxie and somehow managed to obtain new suits from a local shopkeeper and then came back to woo the women. Again and again. Each time in new suits. And in no time the three couples married.

Girls my age had princesses but I had liberation as my love story.

I hold onto this love story, passed down from my grandparents, two holocaust survivors who rebuilt their lives on The Somehow Theory.

That somehow, if you believe enough, if you hope enough, it will work out.

No matter how hard it is.

As we watched the results of our presidential election roll in, my husband looked me in the eye and said, "We have to live each day. That's it. Don't succumb to fear. Live. Love." And that's what I'm planning on. Living and loving as much as I can every damn day. It's exactly the medicine my grandparents would have recommended. I invite you to join me.

Adventures in Parental Monogamy | February 2016 Chronogram

If you regularly pick up the Chronogram, our 'regional magazine dedicated to stimulating and supporting the creative and cultural life of the Hudson Valley', you might happen to notice this article on page 28 of the February 2016 edition.

Adventures in Parental Monogamy

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I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Hillary Harvey, the Chronogram's Kids & Family editor, last month. And this article contains much of what we discussed. And I must add that I am flattered to be quoted alongside some amazing colleagues, Cyndi Darnell,Lily ZehnerEsther Perel (I'm a bit starstruck to say the least).

This topic, modern parental monogamy, is much of the focus behind the e-course I'm creating, {re}spark. If this intrigues you, I hope you will check  out the article and then come back to post here, or email me.

I want to know what you want to discover and explore about this topic.I want to help you answer your own big questions and gain a deeper understanding of the intimacy you desire and the struggles you experience.

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Or join my Valentine’s Day mid-day couples retreat in Accord, New York.

How do you find a good fit with your therapist?

Both clients and colleagues often ask me this question so often that I figured it warrants a post of it's own. There are many elements to be attentive to when seeking a therapist. And of all those elements, the one I encourage you to be the most attentive to, is fit. Why? When the stuff you are working through has to do with the delicate art of relationship with self, with other, a lack of satisfaction in relationships, feeling lonely... The healing of therapy is relationship. In the therapeutic relationship you work through the obstacles that hold you back in life this work may not be easy, in fact we can assume it will be challenging — your therapist's role is to help keep it manageable but we need you to be part of that process.

Imagine that you are shopping for a perfect pair of jeans.

You know, the ones that make you feel like a rock star, they fit just so perfectly.

I'd bet  you also know when you put on a pair and the fit’s sort-of deal-able and when it’s a no-go. I’m going to ask you to use that as a reference point.

Imagine that you are in a fitting room trying on a few pairs and I'm there offering you a selection to try on. You needn't show me each pair you try on, but I do need some feedback if I'm going to help you find the rockstar fit. Is the pair you are trying too big, too small, wrong cut, wrong wash, etc… eventually we will fine tune and find the right pair and you’ll know when we do!

We want you to feel like a rockstar in those jeans, and likewise in therapy. For therapy to work really well and for us to fit well together I need your constant feedback so we can adjust to meet your needs.

I need to know when things don’t fit. I need to know when things don’t feel good. When you are uncomfortable. When you feel too vulnerable or unheard. And that applies to both what happens in my office, and also what happens outside the office. We need to be mindful of these moments.

I'll interpret and reflect much in our work but that doesn’t mean my interpretation always fits. In fact, I expect it often won’t. That's why it is your role to tell me what doesn’t fit. If you don't tell me, I can’t know. So is also true in all of your relationships, we are simply honing that skill in our work.

All of your relationships are reflections of yourself.

Therapy is one of these relationships. My role is to be a mirror and to help you see yourself. Sometimes you might enjoy that reflection. At other times it may feel abrasive.

I ask for feedback so that we can talk about what that feedback looks like. Perhaps you don't feel like coming to therapy one day. Or you come but don't feel like talking. Or you are angry, or... (You get the drift.)

We'll come back to this time and again in our work.

This constant exploration of what fits is the work of relationships, and relationships are the work of therapy.

Ready to learn more? I offer FREE 15-minute phone consults.

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p.s. Visualizations often help people relate to and retain information better—which is to say that you are more likely to remember this perfect pair of jeans analogy. If you enjoy watching TED talks, check this one out. Pay attention to the Baker/baker paradox.

one thing during the holidays...

"If you think you're enlightened go spend a week with your family." Ram Dass

The holidays bring out the best and the worst in people. There is something magical about slowing down and focusing on the people you love most in the world. And, there is also something incredibly triggering about focusing on the people you love most in the world. Even for the most enlightened amongst us.

In family, as in all in intimate relationships, you are at your most vulnerable. You crave belonging, and that craving makes you vulnerable to rejection. After all, it’s a human drive to connect, to bond, to attach. In fact, research shows that we barely survive and certainly don’t thrive without it. Scientifically speaking, we refer to this intensely human drive as attachment.  It’s also the very place your vulnerability emerges from that drive to attach.  

During the holidays, just like everyday, your mind is busy trying to regulate this drive. You want to connect, but you don’t want to be rejected.

You, me, all of us...we make constant bids to connect. When these bids go well, you feel good. You feel heard, seen, and accepted. And this helps you feel safe and secure in the presence of the people you love. All this makes for good connection flow. But when these bids don’t go so well,  you feel defensive, invisible, that your thoughts and feelings don’t matter. That compromises connection. And often, it triggers a domino effect of reactions that disconnect you.

During the holiday season, you may find that you want more attention and connection from the people you love. Or, you may find that you withdraw. This is completely understandable if you aren’t use to your need for connection being satisfied or if you’ve experienced loss.

You're human seeking security.

What I’d like to help you shift your attention to this holiday season is that this is dance of connection and disconnection is true for all of us, in all intimate relationships (between couples, parent/child, siblings, the “just like family” friends, and colleagues).

And it’s true for me too as a relationship therapist. Yep, my skin gets prickly and I get triggered when I go home for the holidays too. Gasp. There I said it. I’m simply not that enlightened...yet.

Here’s one thing I know for sure: the beautiful mess of relationships, the desire for connection and reflection and learning in the missed opportunities -- it all offers awesome opportunities to tune in and find your {re}connection.

The painful, sticky less enlightened moments remind you to slow down and pay attention. By slowing down you take back control. You reset your focus and tune back into yourself in relationships and into what really matters to you.

Be thankful for these sweet-sticky moments; they guide you towards connection with the people you love most.

Relationship Hack: Core Issues

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I have a small, little relationship hack for you.  

John Gottman says that 69 percent of the time, all of the fights that you have in your relationships are going to be perpetually unresolvable.  

What if instead of looking at fight, we look at the core issue underneath the fight?  What if we started noticing the things that you're really thinking, things that are triggering you?

Things like "I feel like I don't matter" or "I don't feel like I could ever do good enough."

What if we get down to those issues and we help you to tune into them yourself? And we help you to help your partner tune into what's really coming up for you.  How would that change the quality of your fights?  How would that change the dynamics between the two of you and help you both feel more heard and understood?

I hope you enjoyed this relationship hack, I'm hoping to make Relationship Hack into a regular video series and bring more of these little bits to you on the regular.

I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

I invite you to share your input with me, let me know what resonates and what you want more of. And if there are any questions you want me to cover in future videos...ask!

And as always, please share the love by sharing with someone that you love.

Rituals of Connection

Last week I posted a vlog on mind reading & relationships and I spoke about how common it is for couples to miss some important communication and connecting steps, simply out of mindlessness. In this week's vlog I'm taking you a little deeper and we're talking about HOW to start rediscovering and maintaining your connections with one another. Let's talk about how to find your rituals of connection.

Wait, what's that? Watch this brief video or read the transcript that follows and then join me in the discussion below.

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I work with a lot of couples who feel like they miss each other, who feel like they aren’t able to tune into their partner or their partner is not able to tune into them.

Perhaps you can relate.

Something I tell my couples to do is to find something that they can make theirs, that becomes their regular ritual.

These are brief things.

These are things that take maybe one to six seconds in total. So, it’s really something you can do throughout the day.

I want you to pick something together that feels good for both of you.

You could both have something that’s a little different—that’s ok.

It could be something that you do when you’re walking by each other, like touching each other on the shoulder. It could be pinching each other on the behind. It could be ruffling each other’s hair. It could be what my husband and I like to do, which is a six-second kiss. It could be a lot of different things.

I want you to get really creative and come up with something that works for you.

I know at first it’s going to feel a little bit forced. And that’s ok.

The point here is that you’re really remembering to pause and to take notice of each other.

And to make that into something that you become really mindful of, so you’re becoming mindful of connecting with one another.

This is where it all begins.

Because when you can do this, then the next step is to start using it when you need something. The trick is going to be tuning into your own needs first. When you can do that, then you make a mindful effort to connect with your partner.

And then your partner makes the mindful effort to say, “Hey, what did you need?”

And that’s where you stop missing each other. 

Start with this little ritual. Just find something—anything, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be my thing. It can be your thing. But I want you to find something that allows you both to find each other.

So, whether it’s the six-second kiss, or it’s just caressing each other on the shoulder, or the behind, or the back, or ruffling each other’s hair—anything else you can think of—find your thing and start implementing it just when you’re passing by each other.

Just start making it your little ritual.

Come back and tell me how that goes for you.

Mind Reading & Relationships

Let's talk about mind reading.

No, it’s not something that I do. It’s not something that I think any of us do, but it’s something that we all wish for in our relationships.

I invite you to watch this video or read the transcript that follows.

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If we look at parents’ relationships with their children, with little ones, there’s a really high degree of attunement where parents are supposed to know what their kids need.

I have a five year old. She often says to me, “Mommy, I was thinking that thing in my head and you just didn’t do it.” I think that’s a great example of how we expect others to kind of know what it is that we want. But we also have to learn—my daughter, again, is five so she’s still learning this stuff right now—how to communicate the things that we’re thinking.

Often times in relationships, we miss that step.

We think that our partner should know us so well. Right?

And if they really cared and if they were really paying attention, then that thing would just kind of happen. So, we miss that step. That’s one of the places where I’m always telling couples, telling people, telling partners to slow down.

John Gottman, one of the leading relationship experts—says that often couples get into trouble out of mindlessness, not malice.

I’d like to help you start thinking about this desire that your partner reads your mind as opportunity to tune in and to be more mindful of your relationship.

How can you play with this idea?

What your partner is really saying is, “I want to know that you’re thinking about me.” They want to feel like they matter to you, right? So, how do you play with this? How do you let your partner know that they matter?

You pay attention.

You tune in.

You notice where you feel like you’re missing something.

And you ask questions.

I'd love to hear, in the comments below, what thought this inspires in you and for your relationship.