Sunday, November 28, 2010

Improve Your Relationships with the "Musts" for Good Communication

Good communication requires 3 things:

1.Express your feelings openly and directly.
2.Listen nondefensively when the other talks.
3.Listen with respect even if you feel angry or frustrated. You can share angry feelings in a respectful way without demeaning or insulting the other.

Poor communication is the opposite of this and looks like this:

1. Instead of opening up, you hide your feelings or act them out aggressively.
2. Instead of listening, you argue defensively and insist they are wrong.
3. Instead of conveying respect, you go to war and try to put the other down.

When you are the listener, you need to be quiet and have receptive body language. Your goal should be not to agree or disagree, but to paraphrase and express how they were probably feeling.

You need to examine your role in the conflict. Also, the conflict will probably not get resolved if your motivation does not lie in wanting connection and closeness.

By following these guidelines for good communication, relationships can be greatly improved if both people are mature and want closeness.

Colleen Montgomery is an individual and couples counselor in Severna Park, MD. It is important for therapists to listen empathically during counseling, reflect thoughts, practice new skills and to challenge distorted thinking. People often have distorted thoughts that reflect low self esteem and this can be greatly improved in counseling. Colleen can be reached at 410-336-4950 to set up an appointment.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Lessons on Life Series 4: Relationships

It is important to look at relationships and ask yourself some important questions:

Is the love I give & receive based on how love was defined for me when I was a child?

Is this the kind of love that I wish to give & receive as an adult?

Is this the kind of relationship I really want?

We often stay in relationships that don't work for two reasons:

First, because we hope they will change.

Second, we are often taught that every relationship should work out.

When people are frustrated in repeat relationships, it's as if they are looking for milk in a hardware store. No matter how many times they go up and down the same aisle, they are not going to find any milk. If you want love, tenderness, and affection in your relationships, but you have chosen a person who clearly can't give it to you, it may be time to choose someone else. Don't allow people to be reckless with your love, your heart, and your tenderness. But don't also allow for old definitions to dictate your present life.

We often try to control and manipulate others. People may be happy in a relationship today but wind up fighting over something like, "Will you be here in 20 years from now?" But, the future is not for us to know so they may or may not be with you. That is okay as the length of a relationship or how it ends is never wrong, it is simply life.

It can be difficult to see people in the present, rather than to focus on the past or future. How many times have we held onto memories of something they did a long time ago? How often have we let those unhappy memories color our opinion of them today, even though they've apologized and changed? Sometimes we still have agendas of wanting to punish them or to make them see the past hurt. We hold onto our feelings, accumulating resentments and gathering evidence against those we love. If we hold on to the past hurts, we no longer have the intention of loving them. Instead of holding onto these unpleasant feelings, we must learn to say "ouch" when we hurt, and to the person who hurt us. Hopefully, they can help us to let go of the hurt by listening.

When we let go of the future pictures and illusions of how things should look, of our strategies and agendas, love takes on a life of its own. It goes where it wants to go, as opposed to us trying to direct it. When we let go, love can take us to some wonderful and tender places we could never have imagined for ourselves.


Life Lessons by Elisabeth Kuhler-Ross, Schribner, 2000.

Colleen Montgomery is a well-known individual and couples therapist in Severna Park, MD which is closely located to Glen Burnie, Annapolis, Pasadena and Millersville.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Lessons on Life Series 3: Anger

It is very difficult for many people today to get in touch with their feelings. Sometimes it helps to close your eyes and put one hand on your stomach to help you get in touch with your feelings. We are so used to letting our minds dominate that we forget our feelings. Notice how many times you begin a sentence with "I think" rather than "I feel".

Anger tells us that we haven't dealt with our pain. Hurt is present pain, while anger is often lingering pain. As we gather these hurts and do not address them, our anger grows. We can accumulate so many hurts that it eventually becomes hard to sort them out and even hard to recognize that the anger is there.

When we turn our anger inward, it often expresses itself as feelings of depression or guilt. Anger turned inward and held internally distorts our perceptions of reality. All of this old anger becomes unfinished business not merely with others, but with ourselves. Many families avoid anger issues and skirt around them. But it is hard to forgive when you haven't dealt with the anger. The more anger you can let go of, the more forgiveness you are going to have.

Often anger has to do with underlying fears. Here are some examples of things people might say and what the underlying fear may be:

The anger: I'm angry because you weren't there.
The fear underneath: When your not there, I fear you are abandoning me.

The anger: I'm angry because of what you said.
The fear underneath: I'm afraid you don't love me anymore.

It's easier to keep rubbing in the anger than it is to deal with the fear, but it doesn't help solve the underlying problem. In fact, it often only makes the "surface" problem worse, for most people do not respond well to anger. Yelling at people rarely convinces them that they are wrong.

Our society feels that anger is bad or wrong , so we don't have healthy ways to externalize it. We are not familiar with how to talk about it or let it out. We stuff it, deny it or contain it. Anger is a normal reaction many times but we just need to learn how to express it so it can be received.

We are here to heal and move through our feelings.

Reference: Life Lessons by Elisabeth-Kubloer-Ross, Schribner, 2000.

Colleen Montgomery is an individual and couples therapist in Severna Park, MD which is located near Glen Burnie, Pasadena, Arnold, Millersville and Annapolis. She continues to feel blessed by helping people through their life's work. All people have struggles, relationship difficulties and lessons to learn. No one, no matter what profession, resides on Earth without difficult relationships and experiences. Counseling is not about giving others "advice" or "answers" as no one including therapists are free of challenges in navigating difficult waters. Counseling is about allowing you to be heard, reflected, and to discuss options and strategies to help you reach decisions that are best for you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lessons on Life Series 2: Surrender

The next lesson for discussion today is that of: Surrender.

Many of us labor under the illusion that control is always good and that it would be dangerous for us to let the "universe" take care of things. It may be difficult to find the lesson in a difficult situation; we may wonder why it's happening. But, there is often no other way for the universe to heal us except to present us with tough situations. Try to see it as "what is" rather than what is "bad". None of us really knows why events happen in our lives. The problem is that we think we should know, but living requires humility, for life is a mystery. All will be revealed in its own time.

How do we surrender to "what is" and stop fighting? We simply "let go". We learn to trust in God, in the universe, as we begin for the first time in our lives, to relax. In letting go, we release mental pictures of how things should turn out and accept what the universe brings us. We accept that we don't always know what is in our best interest. Those times when we thought we absolutely knew what was best, we were wrestling with illusions.

To surrender, is to simply rise everyday and say "thy will" not "my will". You can have plans and a working blueprint. But, there will be changes, paths I didn't expect. Wonderful surprises and scary surprises. There will be situations that lead me on new journeys. I trust that all this will lead me in a direction that will bring my being, my soul, to its greatest unfolding.

We have all become so very controlling. We have forgotten what it's like to be students and to sit at the feet of others. We don't know how to receive other ideas and experiences, even if only for a brief while.

Refusing to accept situations we cannot change exhausts us, strips us of our power and peace of mind. We take back our power and regain peace of mind when we let things be as they are. We are in effect saying, "I am going to be happy right now". "I'm not going to put it off". Refusing to surrender, is the same as saying,"I can't be happy until these conditions change". Surrendering into life as it is can be the quickest and most powerful way to get the lesson out of the situation.

Colleen Montgomery is an individual and couples therapist in Severna Park, MD which is also close to Millersville, Pasadena and Annapolis. Sacred Cove Counseling is located at 821 W Benfield Road. We specialize in marriage counseling and counseling for anxiety and depression issues.

Life Lessons by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Scribner 2000.

I dedicate this blog today to my sister Amy and my niece, Lilly to whom I wish a Happy 4th Birthday.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lessons on Life

It has been said that there are many lessons on life that we are to learn before passing. Some of these lessons include: authenticity, loss, love, patience, play, power and forgiveness amongst many more. Today, lets talk a bit about the lesson of loss.

Loss is a major part of our life school. Many of us resist loss through out our lives not understanding that loss is life and life is loss and we cannot grow without loss. There are 5 stages that people experience in a loss in life: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Whatever you are feeling when you lose someone or something is exactly what you are supposed to be feeling. It is never our place to tell someone else that they are grieving too long. The feelings we go through such as feeling empty, helpless, immobilized, paralyzed, worthless, angry, sad and fearful are all part of the healing process. Perhaps the only certainty about loss is that time does heal this.

In life, we long for wholeness and we hope that we can keep people and things just as they are, but we can't. Loss is one of our most difficult lessons of life. We try to make it easier, even romanticize it, yet the pain of separation from someone or something we care about is one of the hardest things we will ever experience. There is no loss without growth which is perhaps why we are always struck by it.

There are some common clear lessons that have come from people who have technically been dead but were brought back to life. First, they are no longer afraid of death. Second, they know that death is only the shedding of a physical body. Third, they remember having a profound sense of feeling wholeness in death, of being connected to everything and everyone and feeling no sense of loss. Lastly, they report that they were never alone, that someone was with them.

We experience our losses in our own time and in our own ways. We are given beautiful grace in denial. We sometimes mourn for those who have cared for us the way they should have. We also mourn for those who did not give us the love we deserved. If we have been hurt by a loss, we may find ways to protect ourselves against loss: we detach, we deny, we help others with hurts so we don't have to face our own, and we might become so self-sufficient that we will never need anyone. We will subconsciously put ourselves in situations that remind us of our original losses so we can heal. If you wonder why you seems to keep meeting people who abandon you, it may be the universe sending you people and situations to help heal your loss. But sometimes the lesson in healing an old loss is in realizing that we can't prevent new losses. By guarding against loss, we incur loss. We ensure we don't lose people by keeping them at a distance, but that is loss in itself.

Even within our deepest sense of loss, we know that life continues. Despite all the losses and endings that may be bombarding you, new beginnings are all around. In the midst of pain, loss may seem to be never ending, yet the cycle of life exists all around us.

Colleen Montgomery is an individual and couples therapist in Severna Park MD. Sacred Cove Counseling is located at: 821 W Benfield Rd. Severna Park, MD 21146. She can be reached at 410-336-4950 to set up an appointment for marriage counseling, individual counseling for issues such as anxiety, depression, grief, and relationship issues.


Life Lessons by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler,Schribner, 2000.