Accusation or Acceptance?  Anguish or Forgiveness?

How many times in our lives have we expected something to happen or someone to come through on a promise or commitment. Maybe we have expected to be recognized for having done something a little special? When this doesn’t happen, how do we respond? I know I’ve been upset, let down and even angry on many of these occasions. Of course, with heightened emotions our behaviour can also become less than optimal making a frustrating situation even worse.

We have the whole wide range of emotions for a reason. There are no “bad feelings” like I thought growing up. It is, rather, how we choose to express our emotions can either be helpful or hurtful.

And what about the expectations we have for ourselves? All too frequently the goals, aspirations and targets we set can be thwarted, unreached or underachieved. Perhaps we fail to put in the required effort or decide the goal was too lofty or not worth the effort? At those times, negative thoughts can easily arise in the back of our mind, contributing to excessive emotions and negative behaviours. Some of us over/under eat, others over/under talk and still others turn to addictive habits (e.g. smoking, drugs, sex, exercise etc.).

As we learn, grow and mature, I like to think our expression of feelings and reactions improve.  The advanced ability to address upset with humility and grace, however, is not an automatic right of passage or a quality one develops by aging.  Through reading, education and practice we stand the best chance to improve. How we think about ourselves and others, when expectations are unmet, is central to both our emotional and behavioural response. When disappointment and upset surface, we can adopt positive attitudes that foster empathetic reactions.

“We are all human and are learning all the time”… “How can I do better next time?” “Some goals you reach… focus on those”

The next time you don’t reach a goal you set or someone you placed confidence in doesn’t follow through, dig deep inside your mind for an attitude or acceptance that fosters a balanced emotional state, and subsequently, wise and healthy behavioural choices. Additionally, it is important to take ownership for letting ourselves or others down, finding creative ways to reconcile the relationship.

Let us remember, healthy relationships are constructed, built up, maintained and enhanced over time. When efforts don’t match expectations we can still be polite and respectful.

People express emotions and concerns so many different ways. Some lean toward expressing themselves verbally and others more nonverbally. Most draw upon one style or the other to a greater or lesser extent. Some vent softly and quietly while others shout out and bellow. Still others may choose to use art and music to express thoughts and feelings.

The picture above is one sixteen year old’s self portrait of her pain and sorrow, sketched out onto a plain piece of paper during a meeting. Sadness, depression, pain, sorrow and grief are a few emotions that we might think are bad or negative, however, all emotions are valuable. How we express these feelings, and indeed all emotions, can be either positive or negative; helpful or hurtful.

We may witness how other people express themselves and, at times, compare or even judge.  Are they “over dramatizing”, “coping well”, “too emotional” or “holding in too much”?  How should somebody react to abuse? What is the proper way to show emotions after the death of a loved one, the loss of a precious pet or after hearing the news your spouse or romantic partner is leaving you?

Could it be we are simply so uncomfortable with the expression of certain emotions, like sadness, depression, pain, sorrow and grief, we are also unsure how to react when others express these feelings? Emotions are valuable tools that signal us when something is wrong, alert us to the safety levels in various situations. They remind us of the quality and qualities in our relationships, point to areas for personal improvement and even refine and accentuate our communication.

There is a time and place for every emotion. Discovering how to express ourselves more fully and effectively is an art. Validating the expressions of others and providing an empathetic response is also an art requiring study (e.g. mentoring, coaching, observation and reading) and practice.  With time and effort we can develop and improve the art of expressing ourselves fully.

I’m quite tired now and becoming more uncertain about this post. Guess I’d better get some rest.


Teens Test Tolerance!

Sometime our teenagers seem to give us such a hard time we can feel like strangling them or just simply like giving up. It is common to feel like this. You are not alone when you feel frustrated and overwhelmed by this stage of family life. Don’t give up or “throw in the towel”. There is a lot you can do.

Getting coaching and guidance from our therapists, located in Oshawa, can help you adjust effectively to the challenges faced when raising teens. Reading the book the “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” by Sean Covey, and even encouraging your teen to read it, can be a great resource also. We refer to it as the “textbook” when working with parents and teens. Trust yourself to get professional counselling when you are unsure how to best resolve the situation.

Contact us at to schedule a session via Skype or in person.

Read more on teens @

Entry #3 of 3)  Step-parents are often both, “easy targets” for blame and extra stressed in their attempt to join with others in the family who already have well-established relationship bonds. This dynamic, along with past conflict resolution patterns, can make it rather challenging to adjust after separation and remarriage. Excessive silences can be just as detrimental to a relationship as can angry outbursts. In today’s third post in the series, we hear from the wife/step-mom, a self-proclaimed “rage-aholic“, as she identifies her husband’s contribution…

“I’m married to a silent rage-aholic.  When in an argument, he would rather avoid the problem or sweep it under the rug in hopes it will all blow over.  In fact, all it does is make it worse!  When you don’t talk things out or at least try, it just makes the other person angrier and left feeling alone and that they just don’t matter.  How many people out there understand or know what I’m experiencing?

Blaming one another only intensifies and extends the problem as our energies are now invested in misdirected ways.  Shifting our perspective away from the other and toward the couple as a team is critical in order to find solutions together. Working through the stresses involved with separation, divorce and remarriage is a complicated process, one that we hope we don’t go through often.  Because of limited experience it can be quite helpful to seek out professional coaching.

Our Oshawa counsellors teach effective coping strategies, increase and strengthen your interpersonal skills and help you stop hurtful conflict by increasing calm and successful problem-solving.

Relationships are constructed one sentence, action or facial expression at a time.

The more we can increase our ability to display loving expression with words, face and tone, we will build healthier and more  satisfying relationships.Painted heart

Entry #2) Remarried couples, especially when the previous relationships involved high conflict dynamics, are likely to take on the same characteristic conflict style, over time, they had in previous relationships. This is not a personal failure or flaw but rather a habit learned over time that also can be unlearned. In today’s second post of three we hear from a dad’s perspective on this dynamic…

“Most times when there is a problem brewing in the household my wife comes at me with arguments as if we’re having a fight.  I think she stews over issues in her head to the point when she talks to me its already a full blown fight.  I listen and understand what she is saying and she has validity to what she says.  I feel that when she comes at me I don’t know what to say because now I’m engaged in a fight that I had no idea was coming.  By not saying anything I look like I’m avoiding the issue. By blurting out “yes dear” I feel like I’m just giving in and not contributing any input or constructive resolution.  I don’t know what to do and this happens all to often.  Its like she prefers conflict over communication… rage-aholic”
                                                                                              Husband/ Dad
How to argue well is an art that we develop over time.  There are many books and resources to help. Negotiating changes and challenges in our families requires as much skill as we use in our careers, if not more, due to the higher emotional intensity present in our intimate relationships. It is work to develop these skills and they do not “just come naturally”.

Check out tomorrow’s post from Wife/Stepmom for the conclusion to this series.

While many researchers may indicate yes to this question, it doesn’t have to be so.  The initial turmoil and emotional upset following separation and divorce impacts all family members to some extent disrupting family stability, emotional balance and even parental effectiveness.  Of course this may not come as a surprise. When we experience significant loss, grief and the associated increased stress levels we do not usually function as well, both physically and emotionally.

In his article in The Future of Children, Paul R. Amato expresses this concern;

Many single parents, however, find it difficult to function effectively as parents. Compared with continuously married parents, they are less emotionally supportive of their children, have fewer rules, dispense harsher discipline, are more inconsistent in dispensing discipline, provide less supervision, and engage in more conflict with their children.” VOL. 15 / NO. 2 / FALL 2005  

Many parents in this situation come in for counselling feeling “overwhelmed”, at their “whits end” and even like they’re “losing their mind“.

What can be done?  Fortunately, for those parents (even one) who are open to assistance, and willing to put the marital dispute aside, cooperative parenting coaching, is quite beneficial for improving family functioning.  Learning what is useful when adjusting after a separation and developing an effective co-parenting plan that is specific to your situation can greatly reduce stress and improve social, emotional, cognitive and academic or vocational functioning.

Both, children and parents can do better at school and work, and with each other , with a clearly defined and equitable co-parenting agreement.

Our Oshawa counsellors can assist you with adjusting after separation and divorce and help you develop great co-parenting ... Call us today !