Category Archives: therapy

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

 

Worth Some Pain

Have you ever gotten a really good massage? You know, the ones that leave you a little sore the next day and even hurt a little in the midst of receiving. The massage therapist pushes on muscles that have been under or overworked and you breathe deeply to take your mind off the soreness radiating from the tissue deep within. Sometimes it tickles, sometimes you tense up, and sometimes it simply feels on fire. Your body releases tension and toxins, and slowly but surely your body relaxes and realigns.

This may sound terrible to some of you, and that’s fair, but I invite you to stick around and keep reading. It is true, this kind of massage is not for everyone. It certainly may not be the relaxing experience that you had imagined for a day at the spa. The deep tissue work that hurts can be too much for some people and they happily prefer, and are most content, with a Swedish massage. Perhaps you even think pain is a waste of money when calm unwinding is on the agenda. And in the realm of massage, this is fine and good.

But what about the rest of your life? Are there places you avoid pain and this avoidance also keeps you from relief, joy, perhaps even freedom?

There are things in every part of our lives that require a bit of pain to reach the goodness and enjoyment on the other side. Be this getting into an exercise routine, working out the pain of your marriage, learning guitar, even going to the dentist. Our muscles are sore from lifting weights, our hearts are tender as we try new ways of interacting with our spouse, our fingers hurt and our frustrations high as we strum a guitar for the first time, and our mouth poked at, maybe even bleeding, as the dentist assures the health of our gums and teeth.

We learn to withstand these things because we trust they are ultimately for our good or things we want. We accept the temporary pain and make peace with it. What seems like a terribly uncomfortable experience actually leads us to a greater joy. And yet these experiential learning labs don’t necessarily transfer to the emotional side of our life. When the possibility of feelings of rejection or insignificance arise, we dodge and manipulate with the best of them. Why do so many of us actively avoid pain?

Because it hurts.

And that’s the point.

Not all hurt is equal and not all hurt is bad. Our relationship with pain is of utmost importance because pain usually accompanies growth. The saying “pain is temporary” couldn’t be truer and our mindset around our ability to tolerate the temporary nature of pain must be strengthened. 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.

This is not a call to run haphazardly into foolish relationships and unsafe experiences. Pain will find us; we do not need to run head on into it. However, it is an invitation to 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. We are not given the choice of pain or no pain, and yet we are given the complete ability in how to respond. Our journey is how we respond. Our growth is how we allow for and dare I say, embrace, the pain that comes our way.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

For more on creating a new relationship with pain, email me.

 

Learning to Let People Down

It’s been over a month since I’ve written much. Not just a blog, but anything. The last blog was a bit hard and though well-received, it didn’t make life easier. I have been busy and tired. I have had to renegotiate my schedule and stay true to my own boundaries. I have had to sacrifice keeping my word at all costs and release the irrational belief that I have control over what folks think about me and how I impact them.

Ultimately, I have had to learn to let others down for the sake of myself and my sense of well-being.

I typically blog weekly and have multiple blogs in waiting for weeks when life does get chaotic and busy. It helps to eliminate the pressure on myself and allows me a comforting cushion on a self-imposed deadline. I also blog not only for myself but for others who have encouraged me and share my writing. I have folks holding me accountable for taking the risks of putting my thoughts out there, all of which keep me on a schedule.

For the most part, I love this. I find joy in connecting with others through struggle and story. The creativity of saying possibly recycled thoughts in new ways, ways hopefully folks can relate to, has fueled me. I literally have 43 titled and unfinished blogs in waiting because I get ideas after a session or in conversation with a friend or over dinner with my husband and start something I don’t have time to complete. I enjoy the process. I enjoy the challenge. I enjoy the regularity. I enjoy the creating. I enjoy the writing.

But life happened and I got behind.

As weeks passed, my computer closed and my will lacking, guilt and shame stated to creep in. The days I typically post a new blog would come and go and my inner voice would whisper words of disappointment. I’m a failure who can’t keep her commitments. I knew I shouldn’t have taken this on. I was probably just lucky folks liked them anyway. Maybe it’s best to stop while you’re ahead. After allI had committed to something and here I was, having only made it a few months.

It wasn’t only here that I found shame creeping in. I also wasn’t able to take on some of the workload I wanted. I had to create gaps for the exhaustion and boundaries for my schedule. I had to say no, often followed by an apology and plea for forgiveness and grace. I passed on commitments or showed up the best I could because in this season that I was struggling to give my all.

Life was forcing me to let others down. Life was forcing me to choose me.

The feelings of guilt and shame and the thoughts that something was wrong with me because I couldn’t hold and do it all pulled on my heart and made choosing me difficult. I tried to push myself while knowing the truth. If I didn’t let go of somethings, it was going to cost me a lot of things. My values would be compromised and I would ultimately be much more distraught with myself.

So I picked me and I made hard decisions. I let things slip and I passed on offers for more this or that. I negotiated responsibilities that others tried to give me. I allowed the space for the feelings and fears, yet kept true to the woman I want to be, the wife I want to be, the counselor I want to be, the daughter I want to be, the friend I want to be, and ultimately the disciple I want to be.

While, I can never truly know if I let others down, my heart says I did. Most people report that I did no such thing; their grace and mercy abounded. I experienced kindness and care from my inner circle and few questions from those impacted. Nothing and no one, other than myself, suggested that anyone was let down by my need to take care of me. I was intentional in how I let others down and perhaps the manner in which I did so helped as well.

Change is tough and learning, like all growth, tends to be uncomfortable, if not down right painful. Learning to let others down, to possibly disappoint family and friends, co-workers and clients, it isn’t easy for a great deal of us. After all I am in the helping profession–I come alongside others and help shoulder their burdens for a season–so it’s reasonably hard to have to limit those I can help. Especially because I love what I do.

However, I am a better woman when I take care of me first. I am a stronger woman when I let go of the fear of letting others down and choose what I need. I am a content woman when I act on my values. I am a healthier woman when I listen to my body, heart, and head. I am an intentional woman when I know what I can and cannot give. I am a grounded woman when I live in balance and mindfully negotiate my priorities. And I am a more complete woman when I learn the beauty of letting others down.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

It is hard to let others down and yet it is so freeing when you allow yourself the grace and space to accept it will happen. To talk more about this journey, contact me today.

When It’s Hard to Hope

I recently had coffee with a good friend and we discussed marriage, travel, ideas for an upcoming talk I have; the normal things between long-standing friends. We laughed about memories and made plans for us and our spouses to get together. I knew we had connected to discuss a recent loss in my life and yet talking about the normal things felt safe. I wasn’t exactly intentionally avoiding, but I wasn’t just letting things out.

And then she asked how I was doing.

Not good, ok, heart-broken, better… they were all the truth. It depended on the hour and who I was with. It depended on the last time I had cried and what I was doing. Sometimes even I didn’t know how I was doing because sometimes life throws you a curveball that you don’t see coming. And while you want to talk about the struggle, sometimes you want to just talk about the other stuff and pretend your world is normal.

The pain that occurs with loss can be overwhelming. You wrestle with your reality throughout the day and perhaps finally come to terms with it only to go to bed and awaken with the pressure to reaccept it once more. The world continues to turn, to celebrate birthdays and baseball games, to gather and go to school and work. No one seems to pause and take note of your grief. And the heartache makes it hard to move forward with hope.

So, what do we do and where do we turn when heartache makes it hard to hope?

In the days following the news I alluded to, I noticed my dueling desires. I wanted to be alone, watch TV, and not face the rising sun and incoming day. This was alongside my longing to connect, to have someone reach out and ask how I was doing, to gaze into friends lives on social media, and constantly check my email and texts. I wanted to exercise, to run, sweat and push myself. I also wanted to stay in bed and not even move so far as to the living room. I wanted to cry and I longed to laugh. I wanted to give up and I was desperate for hope.

And somedays I didn’t know what I wanted or where to turn. But I did know this: Whatever you do, Linds, keep on going. For it was necessary to be together and necessary to be alone. It was important to laugh and important to cry. It was helpful to push myself physically and helpful to give myself grace. And it was essential to continue on, both continuing routine and creating space to pause. Even amid the truth of it being hard to hope, we have to keep going.

And as we keep going and allowing for the different twists and turns our heart takes us on, we turn to God, to friends, and to those who have walked a similar journey. We let others know of the ache and risk being a burden to allow others the gift of caring for us well. Slowly an hour turns into an afternoon and an afternoon into a day and we realize we are still going. We become less annoyed at the morning and more willing to step out and show up. As we hold onto our basic values and practices, share with others, and allow space for feelings, heartbreak slowly gives way for hope to return.

However, hopes return is not without going through the mess, the feels, the ups and downs, and the risks. Hope is a scary thing. Hope has the potential to let us fall and fall hard. Hope has the ability to leave us embarrassed, hurt, lonely, sad, and wrecked. When it’s hard to hope, we may be tempted to throw in the towel, but little is to be gained from giving in and giving up. Hope, even when it’s hard, must return to propel us on onward.

A life without hope is simply no way to live. We have to have hope. And ultimately, when it is hard to hope we must connect. This may be to others and is most fully with God. Hope in things and outcomes, like all hope, has the potential to leave us heartbroken. Yet hope in something bigger than ourselves allows us to get out of our own disappointment and pain to a hope that sustains. We accept we are not alone, we navigate the pain and sorrow, and we show up to answer the question, “how are you doing?” and we make way for hope once more — because hope embodied does not disappoint.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

Three Thoughts On Choosing A Therapist

Last week, a dear friend of mine in another city inquired about what sorts of things to ask for and learn about when trying to find a therapist. She sent me the following message: “‘I got three counseling referrals from my pastor/friend, but I don’t really know what questions to ask to know which one is the right fit. Explain exactly what I want to learn more about with anxiety support?”

It was such a great, simple and yet actually complex question; one that many first time therapy seeking folks must navigate. I was eager to assist because not only do I love my friend, but I also love the therapy process and think the right fit and right relationship are essential. And though this is not an exhaustive list, it is a few thoughts on what you may want to ask a therapist before working together.

  • How do you view change? Most folks are headed into therapy because something isn’t working. If you are able to identify what it is in you that you would like to change — be it how you feel, relationship patterns, anxious thoughts, etc — that’s a huge first step. Getting curious about how the therapist views change is then the next. Personally, I view change as a longer, relational process. I have learned to be upfront with clients that while I can offer some quick skills and possibly even help with this or that, I believe true change only comes in long-term (think a year+) work where the therapeutic relationship has space to work on the roots issues.
  • What’s your approach? Not only is this a question regarding what theory or practices a counselor uses, but also one in which to get curious about them as a person. Some therapists allow clients to talk while giving minimal feedback and others are more directive and take the lead. Ask if he or she is more directive if you want that sort of engagement. Additionally, consider asking the counselor what he or she thinks a good therapeutic relationship looks like and see if you agree. If you don’t know what you want, perhaps think of the friends and folks you turn to when you are struggling and think about how they respond to you.
  • Ask yourself: How do I feel in and after this conversation? As you talk to a potential counselor, notice how you feel. Feeling a bit anxious is absolutely normal, but does it seem like the therapist “gets you?” Do you feel like you could tell them things and they would listen well? Do they make you laugh, do you feel safe, are their words comforting? Do you feel respected? In some ways, trust your gut. Feeling nervous, uncertain, and a bit uncomfortable is common. But if in the midst of that you think and feel like the person on the other end can help with those, give it a try. Most therapists want a good fit and are happy to help you find that if things don’t work with them.

Be aware of counselors who make big promises and speak into your situation without much information. Learn what your referring friend liked and disliked about their work with the counselor in consideration. There are techniques, experience, and style that all play a role in great therapy, but without relationship, I believe little is to be gained. At the end of the day, I hold fast to the following: They won’t care what you show them until you show them that you care.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

 

 

Why Therapists Love the Word “Journey”

It was recently brought to my attention that “journey” is a therapy word; that those outside the walls of the office can often miss the meaning that we as practitioners are trying to bring to light.

Fair.

It is rare that anyone would eagerly long to embark upon a “journey” of unknown length, time, and degree of difficulty. And all that with a virtual stranger leading and inquiring about the most intimate parts of your life. Therapy-wise, perhaps you are willing to do a few sessions to teach you how to better interact with your boss or touch upon the loss of your parent, but a “journey….”

And yet, that is exactly what I do.

I admit, I do love the word “journey.” Simply look at the tag line of this website. Journey holds so much truth to the work I offer my clients. Similar to a journey, we prepare by using what we know. We continue together by reflecting on the past and look into the unknown future. Together we trek untravelled paths; you gain healing as you interact with your possibly painful history and gather insight on ways to navigate your future. On our journey, you learn new skills and together we practice them. With one another, we weather the uncontrollable storms of life and you come out stronger and more confident in yourself.

While sprints with pre-determined finish lines are great, I view therapy as longer than a sprint. Journey’s take time and relay the idea of growth and change, adventure and excitement, and they intentionally account for more than the finish line. Therapeutically, we address not only the surface behavioral changes, but I invite you into relationship that allows for deeper, more sustainable change. I am honored to journey alongside you and allow time for struggle, change, and lasting celebration.

Best of all, this journey is completely yours and no one can take it from you. You are empowered and encouraged try new paths, new ideas, new behaviors, and new thoughts. You experience changes and take those changes into your world, knowing the work it took for you to get there while finding rest in the comfort of having someone in your corner and someone who is for you, someone safe and someone willing to stand with you. And like the tagline says, there is meaning you will find that is unknown to you in the moment.

If this excites, intrigues, invites, or even scares you a little, I invite a conversation and ask you…when shall we embark?

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

If you’re interested in a journey, contact Lindsay today.