Category Archives: therapy

Looking for Our Silver Bullet — Find New Ways To See

One of the traditions my family did while I was growing up was working puzzles together around the holidays. We often would purchase a new Christmas puzzle from Hallmark in Kansas City each Black Friday and I fondly recall drinking hot chocolate and working on these puzzles around the dining room table. Admittedly, the ones we had done year after year were more enjoyable than some of the newer ones, but we always gave it a go and rarely, if ever, gave up prior to completion. Be it evenings or weekends, we would sit with Christmas music in the background working both together though separately on our new purchase for hours at a time.

That is until someone got up.

As it would be, when one of us got up, it wasn’t uncommon that upon returning we found our seat taken with the reason being that the seat thief wanted a different perspective, a new way of seeing the pieces, and perhaps more often than not, a break from not accomplishing much. Sometimes this was welcomed, sometimes it was not. Yet regardless, we continued working together, shifting the sections we worked on and allowing for the change.

Puzzles do this don’t they? They afford the luxury of pausing and finding new ways to see the pieces and the progress. In fact, even if left to do a puzzle alone, rarely would one sit in the same place through the entirety of their work. Looking at the hundreds of pieces from a multitude of angles refreshes the work and often leads to seeing a coveted piece right in front of us that previously seemed hidden. We don’t fight this, we welcome it and recognize the value in working puzzles in this manner.

And so it is with life.

I often tell folks in my office that it isn’t that I know the answer and am waiting for them to catch up, rather it is that I sit on a different side of the equation and when they share between us, I simply come at it from a different vantage point. I further illustrate this by placing an object of any sort between us and recognizing how if we were both to describe it, we both have different perspectives from which we both share and gain information. Rather than being in a posture of one up, I desire clients to see me alongside wrestling together with them towards the goals they desire. This in and of itself is often a new way of seeing.

But new perspectives can be scary. They can rattle us and make us feel uncertain, vulnerable, and foolish. It’s enjoyable to change chairs and be pleasantly surprised to find the puzzle piece you were looking for, but to get curious about long held ways of going through the world, ways that you’ve typically committed to out of necessity along your journey, well that is very different. Those practices have usually worked so well and been so helpful and so to question them can seem absurd.

Finding new ways to see is risky and brave, uncertain and courageous. It requires the ability to feel the tensions rather than avoid them. It invites a posture of security in one’s identity that stretches beyond the willingness to examine new perspectives and try out new thoughts. It encourages an open-handedness rather than unwillingness. Yet, as we keep at it, finding new ways to see can become less threatening and more exciting. We realize we can try these new ways out and still maintain our agency in deciding if we will commit to them or not. Slowly and surely finding new ways to see becomes a value for us as we begin to recognize it as the foundation for growth and change.

Maybe it’s a book or documentary. Maybe it’s difficult conversations. Maybe it’s a desire to become unstuck. Or maybe it’s simply sitting in a different chair and gaining a different perspective. As we head into a busy last six weeks of the year, I encourage you to give yourself permission to experiment and PLAY with finding new ways to see. Let it be fun and free, trusting you always have the final say on your commitment to new ways of seeing, doing, and being. And as you find new ways to see, may you become increasingly able to know and discern the person you want to be.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

New ways to see can be scary, often with uncertainty in where to start. If you’d like to have someone walk the road with you, I’d love to hear from you!

Looking for Our Silver Bullet — Innovate Around the Core

For the first few years of my work, I hesitated on telling new clients about my belief in long-term therapy. I worried they would freak out, think I was only trying to assure myself of work, and not buy into the idea. I was anxious about starting off and wasn’t quite sure how to sell folks on the idea of something long-term, and so I would shy away from the conversation.

Of course I believe in long-term therapy for many reasons. Primarily, though, because of its effectiveness at using the relational dynamic to get to the root of struggles and work change at a core level. I wasn’t content with bandaids and surface level change when those fixes, while effective, were sometimes situational and difficult to apply to all parts of life. I love the deep work, the messy heart level work.

And so in hopes of getting others intrigued and sold on this, I began taking the risk of telling potential clients this idea at the start. I assure them that it is their choice and they aren’t committing to any sort of long-term therapy while simultaneously sharing my heart for deep heart change that only comes through long standing relationship and work around the core parts of them. I emphasize the idea of getting to know them while sharing skills and practices along the way. I share my hopes in truly seeing and walking with them for more than a short season so the essence of who they are becomes clear.

Change of behavior is essential for change of heart. I so value sitting with new clients and probing with small inquiries related to small changes they can immediately put into practice. It is my honor and responsibility to provide the best questions and reflections, insights and ideas, that get folks thinking about why they do what they do. I love the practice of celebrating with others the ways they have taken risks or tried out a new practice. Having a front row seat to change is such a privilege.

Plenty of people are satisfied with this level change. In a lot of arenas, it’s really great work. It truly does lead to better lives for individuals and I am encouraged by the courage it takes to make and sustain these adjustments. For others though, this isn’t enough and heart level change is the goal. They long to innovate around the core, letting the effects of change spiderweb out and impact their daily living without the always conscious effort.

Innovation around the core is for the bravest of the brave—those willing to fall and stand again more times than they ever dreamed and those prepared to take a most honest look at themselves even when they are certain there are reflections they won’t like seeing. It is the practice of challenging ones very heart in hopes of healing and thriving. It is cleaning out the wound rather than covering it.

As you look toward change and growth, I encourage you to not ignore the core. It is the source of your strength and freedom, the well from which we draw when our backs feel up against the wall. It’s the hardest heart of the work that requires a willingness and invitation for God to move. Innovate here, where the effects are lasting and multiplied, for it’s freedom and fruitfulness is one that no one can take from you as you live anew.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

For more information on long-term therapy and core innovation, contact me!

Looking for Our Silver Bullet — A Blog Series

Sometimes we read a book or a quote and it becomes sticky. It’s ideas and words rattle around in our mind and won’t seem to leave us alone. Books like When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, The Gift of Being Yourself by David Benner, The Problem With Pain by C.S. Lewis, and Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle are some that quickly come to mind for me. They captivate, challenge, and invite the reader to cultivate new ways of thinking and possibly new ways of going through the world.

Additionally, some quotes do this. In grad school, a professor shared one such quote that I memorized enough to go back and find. “If words are to enter men’s minds and bear fruit, they must be the right words shaped cunningly to pass men’s defenses and explode silently and effectually within their minds.” -J. B. Phillips. What a great thought! It is so powerful and articulate, helping to frame the kind of writer, speaker, and therapist I desire to be.

If you’ve read many of my blogs, you will see quotes and ideas that have stuck with me sprinkled throughout. One quote, however, feels more deserving of intentionality than a mere mention.  And so I decided to make this lengthier quote into more of an event that hones in on the specifics of each sentiment. Over the coming 18 weeks, I will be writing a blog series entitled Looking for Our Silver Bullet based on the following quote by former Starbucks CEO, Howard Shultz.

Grow with discipline. Balance intuition with rigor. Innovate around the core. Don’t embrace the status quo. Find new ways to see. Never expect a silver bullet. Get your hands dirty. Listen with empathy and over communicate with transparency. Tell your story, refusing to let others define you. Use authentic experiences to inspire. Stick to your values, they are your foundation. Hold people accountable but give them the tools to succeed. Make tough choices; it’s how you execute that counts. Be decisive in times of crisis. Be nimble. Find truth in trials and lessons in mistakes. Be responsible for what you see, hear, and do. Believe.

—Howard Shultz, Onward

I read this book 7+ years ago and still to this day, I find myself recalling pieces of it in my weekly interactions. It holds simplicity alongside complexity and invites us in. I hope to do the same as each week I will address one of the short statements in the quote and discuss it’s application in our lives. I hope you’ll join me for the series!

And I hope to make Shultz proud.

Maybe even get a coffee out of it.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

To subscribe to the blog series, please click the link on your right or sign up by email! As always, contact me with any questions.

How We Relate to Pain

It seems that one thing most of us have in common is our desire to avoid pain. I see this with clients who so desperately want to change or heal while also desiring to avoid the extremely difficult work of unpacking and sorting through past pains and trauma. I see this with friends as they have stayed in relationships or with jobs they know are unhealthy but don’t want to face the pain of a breakup, possible rejection, and starting over.  And, I see this with myself as well, attempting to avoid pain by getting things “right” and doing what’s asked of me.

We don’t like pain. And of course, this is rational. This is normal. This is human.

This all came back to mind recently while we were taking a birthing class. Giving birth is a well known painful experience, yet it is one that people endure because the reward is great and the pain temporary. Clearly, no one in the class was caught off guard that labor and delivery will be painful. It is simply a given. Even amid this truth, our instructor went through the stages of labor acquainting and familiarizing us with the pain as much as possible. She recently gave us an acronym that I quickly stored away as something helpful both in and outside birthing prep.

P...purposeful. Pain is clearly purposeful in labor and delivery, serving as an indication and call to action,  but what about beyond? Most all pain serves a purpose and call to action. It indicates something is wrong. Physical pain prompts us to move our hand away from the stove or head to the doctor for our sprained ankle. Emotional pain can serve us similarly, motivating us to change our circumstances or relationships. And when this isn’t possible, it can push us to change ourselves. The key is allowing that motivation to move us towards healthy ways of change rather than avoidance and false fixes.

A…anticipated. Labor pain is anticipated and expected. Outside the hospital, pain must become a foreseen part of our existence. Though we all desire to avoid it if we are to create a more balanced relationship with pain we come to be less avoidant, upset, and caught off guard by it. I often tell clients that to be in relationship with others means you will get hurt. Not because people are intentionally out to get one another, rather because we are humans and we make mistakes, say things we regret, protect ourselves, and generally get it wrong at times. If we can learn to accept this pain alongside the benefits and joy of relationship with others, we can thrive in the give and take, the ebb and flow of human connection. Please know this is not a pass for abusive relationships, rather a recognition that it is normal to have feelings hurt in common misunderstandings.

I…intermittent. In labor, contractions start and stop and eventually cease upon the birth of the baby. Similarly, pain most often comes and goes. While some pain is chronic, the pain of both birth and growth is temporary, intense and momentary, allowing for periods of relief and recovery. As is the pain of healing—it will not last forever. Rather, it will be significant and then lessen as it is worked through. Similarly, the other pains in our lives will almost always have periods of intensity and then periods at a lower volume, where we can tune into other things in our world besides the pain.

N…normal. Labor and delivery pain is normal—as is pain in general. Back in November, I wrote about pain and how pain will find us. Because pain is normal, we do not have to run head-on into it. Rather, perhaps we do not avoid pain at all costs. Pain often times isn’t good or bad, it just is. It’s a part of our experience and a part of our life. If we can come to believe we are not given the choice of pain or no pain over the course of our lifetime, we can allow it more easily into our experience.

To be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with this acronym. The therapist in me loves it and tries to live it and invite others to live it as well. It makes sense and helps me make sense of the pain in my own life. There is another part of me, though, that hates it. I want to keep doing what I’m doing because avoiding pain is more comfortable. I don’t want to normalize and anticipate pain, I don’t want to find purpose in it, I simply want to avoid it. And still, I know I can’t. It only takes a day or two of trying this old way and I find myself once again wrestling to accept the existence of pain in my experience and world because my attempts to avoid it have failed me.

So perhaps we must learn new ways to accept pain as necessary for the lives we want to live and the men and women we want to be. We must practice ways to endure pain for the pleasure, peace, and possibility that lie on the other side. Perhaps pain isn’t the worst of all possible options. As I head into my final trimester of pregnancy, there is discomfort in sleep, in sitting, in eating, and in the Dallas summer heat. And to be sure, there is a much larger physical pain to come in a few short months. But oh the possibility and promise that lies on the other side of that pain. For the temporary pain of birth seems momentary amid meeting our kiddo and doing life together.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

Check out other blogs relating to pain and acceptance or start sorting through your own pain by contacting me today.

Presence

The idea of the gift of presence has been in my heart for the past few weeks, even coming up on last weeks blog. Perhaps it’s nostalgia, my personal desire to pull my past into my present with those who have gifted me with presence. Or, with the passing of the holidays and extended time off, presence seems more easily available over coffee or lunch. Or maybe it’s because amid my introverted nature, I long for deep connection, conversation, and communion. And while I’m not sure the motivation, I am sure about my passionate value of presence.

As I sat down to write, my dog reminded me of the need for presence. Stella is what veterinarians call a “social eater,” meaning she really isn’t interested in regular feeding times but rather eating around when she can remain socially connected to me. It took us quite a bit of time to figure out her routine, as she would willingly forego food for days so long as to stay connected to her humans. The easy solution of letting her free-feed 24/7 has become difficult with the inclusion of a dog food-eating cat into our family. And so, in order to gift her with my presence during eating, she is currently on the floor less than 2 feet from where I sit writing on the couch, happily munching away while I protect her from the cat.

The gift of presence with Stella seems silly and at times inconvenient. I’m sure it has cost me some undue anxiety and concern, alongside the need to rearrange my living situation and daily schedule. It certainly has received it’s fair share of questions and judgments from others. And while I’d like to say, oh that’s just the cost of presence for a picky spoiled dog (fair enough) I think there are plenty of similarities in gifting others with our presence as well. Maybe gifting our family and friends with our presence is just as involved as gifting my “social eater” pup.

So what exactly is presence? I admit that while Stella ate, I continued typing and paid little attention to her. This presence may nearly always work with dogs but often much less so with our friends, our spouses, and our children. Because presence is a feeling and a reality, a way of being and a way of being with the other, it requires some degree of intentionality. For, it’s not only our existence that matters but also the manner in which we do so.

To be present is to be invested in seeing and knowing the other.

Let that sink in because it is not just a nice idea. It is a way of connecting and doing relationship. Seeing and knowing the other means asking the hard questions and leaning in; it’s getting involved when maybe you’d rather not. It’s seeing past outward appearance and glimpsing the heart in love and care. It’s a way of knowing beyond facts and data that requires time and tension, awkwardness and availability.

Hopefully, this idea of seeing and knowing, along with being seen and known, makes your heart stir. It’s scary, it’s risky, and it’s chalk full of vulnerability. It risks exposure and rejection. Presence comes with fear and uncertainty riding shotgun and a desire to steer you away. And yet, it is where shame dies, where belonging begins, and where freedom is found. Presence, being seen and known and seeing and knowing, is at the center of healing, reconciliation, and redemption. It’s meeting the other in the depths and saying I’m with you. It’s reserving judgment and instead offering yourself.

This is, of course, a two-way street, with the gift of presence allowing for movement in the first place. The gift of time and possible inconvenience, of attention and rearranged schedules or priorities, all accompany and preceded seeing and knowing. There is intentionality behind creating space between you and another, be it getting coffee, having date nights, or co-creating homework projects. The true gift of presence never just happens because one must pursue the other, leaning in and learning them, seeing and knowing them through questions and shared experiences.

Biblically speaking, to be known by God is one of greatest gifts of relationship with Him. As Curt Thompson writes in The Soul of Shame, “Paul indicates that being known by God is the signpost that we love him. And to be known necessarily means that we are willing to expose each part of us, especially those parts that feel most hidden and that carry the most shame… In contrast, to be known is necessarily to be vulnerable, to open ourselves to God’s love. It is to be asked questions. To be observed. To be seen.”

This model of vulnerability, of being seen and known, serves as an example of how we thrive relationally. Though counterintuitive to risk betrayal, isolation, and abandonment, only by risking these, are we best connected and free to live fully. From our thriving, we also practice knowing and pursuing, we practice asking, listening, and seeing, and we practice the sometimes inconvenient and often uncomfortable willingness to be present for others.

Presence. The work of getting involved in others lives in a way that meets, encourages, and honors them. It is one thing I hold fast to offering all my clients; the willingness to see the ugly, sit in the dark, and be with. But it’s also the way I live outside the office doors. Having both those who know me well, the good, bad, and ugly, and those who I deeply know and see, isn’t optional for—which is perhaps why I am so passionate about presence.

While you ponder the idea of presence in your life, I encourage you to do so this within the counsel of others. This isn’t an invitation to be seen and known by all, nor a suggestion to extend your presence to those who may not respect you in the process. It is, however, a hope for you to look inward and outward as to how you can offer yourself and your attention fully, with cell phones away, TV off, emails ignored, and others postponed, to the ones in your life that need to be seen, heard, and known, and to those in your life who desire presence with you.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

For more info on presence, please contact me today.

On Being a Job Comforter

It seems that perhaps I have a therapist heartbeat; a drive and determination to being with others in a way that offers hope and help. With this lot, I’ve learned to accept the blessings and burdens of connection with clients and relationships lost. I’ve wrestled alongside addiction, anxiety, adolescence, and abuse and together with clients, take on suffering, sorrow, separation, and sexuality. Folks come and go, some better, some sober, some frustrated, and some who don’t make it. And in it all, I must admit, sometimes I wonder if there is more.

For within this, it’s become foundational to both my personal and professional life that I must hold tightly to the belief that I do not change people; for that is not my lot nor within my control. Rather, I deeply respect the honor and privilege it is to walk beside others in their struggle as they try to adjust to new thoughts, feelings, and actions. In this, I take seriously the role entrusted to me and do my best to be faithful towards others and myself. Living my values gives me the courage to balance academia with intuition and humor with directness. And I am beyond thankful for those willing to take a chance on a relationship with me in hopes of finding healing for their own heart.

But maybe even beyond all of this, beyond the joy of seeing folks grow and attain the lives they desire to live, I am drawn towards brokenness itself. And maybe this is my lot.

“I am, you see, a Job’s comforter. Far from lightening the dark valley where you now find yourself, I blacken it. And you know why. Your darkness has brought back my own. But on second thought I don’t regret what I have written. I think it is only in a shared darkness that you and I can really meet at present; shared with one another, and what matters most, with our Master. We are not on an untrodden path. Rather, on the main road.” –C.S. Lewis, Letters To Malcom

This Lewis quote seems to so soundly capture much of my role and my heart for counseling. While I can rarely provide clients with the easy outs, the quick fixes, or step by step instructions, I can attempt to invite them into presence; a presence with our Maker and myself. And it is here where folks are at that I sit with them amid the anger, defeat, pain, and fear interrupting their lives. For in joining together in the dark, together we find a way out.

Though scary as hell, there is connection in brokenness and I have always found purpose, comfort, and place by entering into that space. This is likely due in part to the ways my life has been shaped. For I am a therapist, not because of the ease my life has afforded me, but rather the struggles God and others have helped me through which brought me to such work. I want to comfort by reflecting the comfort I have received, amid a life that seems desolate, destructive, and defeating.

And so my hope is to, in humility and my own limitations, provide space where others feel seen, heard, known, and supported—where they are encouraged and invited into new ways of interacting, relating, and being validated.

I acknowledge my bias that everyone should be in counseling, yet still hold tightly to the benefits it offers. There is such joy to have someone to celebrate the seemingly small changes that we work so hard to attain; changes that the world outside the walls of therapy might not acknowledge, yet impact us to the core. And the journey, oh the journey. The journey and hard work that no one can take away from you is a gift to both yourself and me.

So perhaps my lot is to come alongside and comfort in the darkness and deep. Though outcomes are always out of my hands and therapeutic work comes with ethical limits and guidelines, I am a Job comforter because of the peace I find being a part of the work. And as I eluded to earlier, I am certain there is more; there is definitely always more. But meeting folks in the present, in the midst of heartache, hurt, or hopelessness is a lot I am thankful to have been given.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

If you or someone you care about need a safe and confidential place to be heard and helped, please contact me and we can find a fit for someone to join in your story.

The Hopes and Fears of All the Years

This Christmas, while singing carols, this line stood out to me in a new and unusual manner. “The hopes and fears of all the years…” And while having heard it and sang it all the years of my life, it struck me with it’s opposing nature as the words escaped my lips. How can two seemingly opposite emotions and states of being be brought together? And how do we live in that place, year after year?

My DBT training has taught me well to live the tension of conflicting thoughts and feelings, and so perhaps for me, it is less about the “how do we do it,” and more about the “but do I have to…?” I don’t want to live this way, in the tension of hope and fear. I want to live freely in hope and hope alone. I want to let fear go—it not getting a place in my life outside of keeping me safe and alive. I don’t want to live scared that I may fail at this, might not get those, or may lose that.

Plainly put, I want to find hope that is certain and without the accompanying partner of fear.

Yet, as I sit writing at the start of 2018, I can quickly and easily think of many things in which I am both experiencing hope and its companion fear about for the coming year—hopes for my personal life, my professional life, my spiritual life. And as much as I think I can control my destiny, work hard enough, choose wisely, or make fewer mistakes, when all is said and done, I cannot control the outcome of many of my hopes and fears.

They simply are.

And so I must choose to accept the feelings that come. To live in peace during the holidays, the new year, and beyond, I must actively accept the hopes and fears that swirl into and around the reality I am living. Though I may prefer hope and must fight the urges fear suggests of hiding and setting hope aside, I deliberately welcome both instead of trying to pick one. While choosing fear might seem safer and keeps the heart more guarded, it isn’t, however, the way that leads to a true life worth living. And holding hope alone is near impossible given its uncertain nature. I must invite both, I must hold both, and I must grasp both with open hands.

Not to be overlooked, the ultimate understanding and acceptance of hopes and fears as conveyed in the Christmas carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, points at the birth of Jesus. The hope realized and the fears assuaged, all were met together in Christ. And, Jesus, the anchor of hope that can bear the weight of my fears was not lost on me this Christmas. For when we have hope bigger than ourselves, our fears seem to shrink back and find their rightful size and place. This and this alone is where we tighten our grip and hold on for dear life. For it is here and Him that will see us through the hopes and fears of all the year.

As you begin 2018, I encourage you to see how you are letting hope in, holding fear loosely, and what anchor keeps you amid the two. What do you cling to when fear grows and consumes your heart? What do you clutch for the answer to your hopes? And is there space for the two to collide and coexist, hope and fear crashing into one another while you withstand the impact?

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC