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Education healing Mental Health Mindfulness Psychology

The Truth About Being Happy

Everyone wants to be happy. It’s not an abnormal desire. We’re here, on this planet for a short period of time, so it’s natural to deter feelings of misery or pain. It’s not fun and it doesn’t feel good.

For most, the concept of happiness has taken a left turn. People seek it as if it’s some attainable permanent mood, which is entirely counterproductive.

Happiness is not something you win like unlocking new levels on a video game. Even if you’re listed on a leader board, will that be good enough, or will you find another game to beat?

Life is full of unexpected problems. That’s the inevitable truth. People you love will die. Shit won’t work out the way you hoped or planned. People will break your heart and betray you. That’s life. But, does that mean you can’t “be happy?”

When problems slap us in the face, happiness feels like a distant destination. Perhaps, we’re on the wrong road, or maybe, it’s a place we’ll simply never get to. Obviously, these defeating thoughts can easily become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Sitting with pain is not something the mind and body particularly enjoys. In fact, like a machine, it’s hardwired to protect against invading stimulus. Consider a terrorist attack on ones homeland. Immediately, forces are set in place to protect and defend the country against further casualties.

Successful or not, the threat remains present. Plans will be devised to prevent a similar attack from occurring but bad blood remains. What they decide to do about it, isn’t the point, because if a solution exists, the aftermath of destruction doesn’t disappear. It happened. It’s real. People will suffer the consequence.

Our body works in a similar fashion, immediately defending from outside threats and attacks. It may successfully avoid, distract, or escape the pain, but it’s still there.

Staying present and falling into the wave feels unnatural. Our bodies are conditioned to enter survival mode, but unless you’re living in a jungle, continually attacked by primal species, reactivity is unnecessary.

As humans, it’s tremendously difficult to sit with pain, and unfortunately, it’s the only way to successfully banish it. Happiness is temporary, and so is pain. It comes in waves. Riding the wave as it comes, rather than fighting against it, is useful when hit with the next wave. The current won’t be as strong, the wave will be less demanding, and it arrives at your shore less and less.

Training the body to respond differently requires self awareness when trivial threats arise. Instead of habitually responding without much thought or logic, remain open to the “attack.”

It’s not going to kill you, and in fact, your body becomes resilient. Giving space for pain to exist is like paving a road to a “happier” existence. The more resilient you are, the less defensive you’ll be. Situations that were once deemed problematic are suddenly nonsensical and silly.

Although you’ll never reside inside of a permanent happy bubble, you’ll learn to withstand discomfort, and that alone is a freeing existence.

-Jessica Bruno

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Education healing Mental Health Mindfulness people Psychology Uncategorized

Do You Have A Destructive Ego?

The ego is a friend. Well….if it can be trusted. A healthy ego provides balance. It protects us from acting on basic urges and sets moral standards. Ego’s can wreak havoc, resembling more of an enemy than a trusted counterpart, and unfortunately, successfully dominates the life of most individuals.

A primitive ego seeks power, control, and regulation. Think of this as the first layer of an onion, defending against the more fragile layers hidden underneath, such as vulnerability, fear, shame, and insecurity.

An ego rooted in fear constantly wages wars in the mind, behaves destructively, and often regrets poor decisions. Our emotions are hijacked during distressing events. To ease discomfort, our bodies create defenses to protect us.

A protective self manifests when struggling to regulate emotions or carrying unresolved issues and unhealed wounds. The protective self is false. It’s oblivious to the hidden layers of the onion.

When I was betrayed by someone I loved, the protective self masked my feelings of rejection and inadequacy with anger, distracting away emotions I didn’t want to feel. This resulted in destructive, spiteful behavior, making matters worse. Inevitably I was led right back to those avoided emotions, except they had intensified.

A weak ego sticks to what’s comfortable, whereas a strong ego understands embracing discomfort is healing and necessary. The ego isn’t intentional. It believes it’s doing the right thing, which is why we must check that shit.

Three effective ways to check our egos:

  1. Do not assume or judge without first considering all perspectives. In other words, be open to the possibility that your perception may be biased or inaccurate. Listen to others before reaching conclusions.
  2. Ask yourself what the ego is seeking. In personal relationships, pride, control, and anger are consuming emotions and tend to make terrible decisions for us. Connect and listen to your body and mind before engaging impulsively. Remember to never make decisions in the heat of an intense emotion. Wait until the ego calms the fuck down and only then should you reevaluate.
  3. Make a list of fears, flaws, and insecurities and examine how your ego acts in defense to those things. The ego masks the aspects of our identity we perceive as bad. Practicing self-love and compassion is important. The “bad” aspects of ourselves are typically irrational and stem from a place of pain. Reflection, self-love, and feeling the bad things allow you to heal and grow with them, rather than against.

-Jessica Bruno LMHC

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Education Emotionally Unavailable love psychology Relationships Toxic Love Uncategorized

The Reason You Date Emotionally Unavailable Men.

Do you continue dating unavailable men? If I asked, “What are the warning signs of an emotionally unavailable partner,” you’d recite them swifter than a recovering alcoholic recounting the big book.

After dating several self-absorbed men, you’d assume spotting one a mile away would be easy, as if their clothes are draped in red hazard lights, sporting a sign that reads, “Caution, you are entering a hazard zone. Turn around or die.”

You were certain this guy was different, and yet, he turned out to be the same. What gives?

Well, the common denominator in all your relationships is you. The process unfolds in a subtle manner, so it’s easy to conclude you’re the available one and he’s not. You’re also emotionally unavailable, and the reason this truth is deceptive, is because it began in infancy.

John Bowlby’s, Theory of Attachment is widely recognized in the field of psychology, and offers insight into how emotional bonds formed in early childhood affects ability to secure relationships later on in life. In order for a child to develop normal social and emotional development, a healthy attachment must be formed with at least one caregiver.

It’s the first relationship a child experiences and it sets the tone for future bonds as it teaches what it means to be loved and nurtured. Receiving adequate nurture and affection throughout early childhood develops an adult with secure attachment– securing fulfilling and healthy relationships with likeminded people.  

Out of the four, the avoidant and anxious-insecure are the two adult attachment styles that compel to one another, forming a toxic, dysfunctional relationship. Avoidant dismissive attachment develops when a primary caregiver fails to comfort their infant, forming an inclination to suppress their emotions.

The avoidant-dismissive adult has learned, in early development, to bury emotions due to the formed belief that depending on others isn’t sufficient in meeting their needs, hence their value for independence and desire to remain detached- avoiding vulnerability.

Anxious-insecure adults receive inconsistent nurture from caregivers; fluctuating between responsiveness and affection, while other times, unresponsive, and emotionally unavailable. Having needs met is a gamble. This unpredictable behavior is confusing, causing a child to cling as an act of desperation- like hey! I’m here you asshole, pay attention to me!

 When successful, the child feels rewarded and validated, encouraging the clingy behavior, and when it’s not, feelings of insecurity and distrust arise. Anxious adults internalize beliefs that love is a confusing and inconsistent ordeal, influencing future relationships to reenact that relational dynamic.

Opposites do attract. An avoidant adult is familiar to the anxious adult since they offer unpredictable displays of affection, resembling their first attachment. As he pulls away, you seek validation by moving closer, and if successful, needs are met. This dynamic allows space for both partners to dance around their opposing vulnerabilities.

 He retreats with little consequence, since you’re always waiting for his return. With control to set the limitations, this persistent cycle mainly benefits him. Within this dynamic, a committed relationship will not form, allowing both partner to remain unavailable, acting in a way that’s familiar.

If you haven’t considered the relationships formed during early development, I would recommend doing so. A significant portion of human behavior is learned from childhood. We tend to behave, abiding by what we believe is “normal.” As a child, belief systems aren’t challenged, and unfortunately, are so engrained, that as adults, we hardly recognize their influence.

It’s important to stay vigilant, discover your blind spots, and challenge them!

-Jessica Bruno LMHC

Categories
healing Letting go Mental Health Mindfulness psychology Toxic Relationships

Seeking Meaning As A Tortured Soul

Don’t let the term, “tortured soul” fool you with it’s negative connotation.

A tortured soul is someone persistently seeking meaning. The saying, “everything happens for a reason,” just isn’t good enough. What is that reason? Who is dictating such things? Is there even a spiritual or religious force behind it or are things just the way they are for no good reason?

I have sat with my thoughts countless amount of nights contemplating every possible explanation for the misfortunes I encountered to the degree of mental exhaustion. Sounds pretty unhealthy, right? And it is.

There’s no denying that beating a dead horse will get you absolutely nowhere except stain your white tee with splattered blood and guts.  Why is acknowledging this truth never enough to halt the obsessive rumination? 

Tortured souls have the tendency to dwell on misfortunes and wallow in negative emotions with intent to achieve a heightened state of awareness. We perceive this awareness may result in growth and self-development, so the outcome becomes satisfying. Only then, do we believe we gained something positive, hence concluding it meant something, and we’re better for it.

Not only do tortured souls seek to uncover hidden meaning, but we also yearn to contribute to the good of society. We tend to express the self creatively. Successful creative expression often stems from painful experiences. Dwelling on these emotions becomes an outlet of self-expression. Suffering sucks, and it is not only inevitable, but can be the source of creating a beautiful masterpiece.

The reason I use the word tortured, is because a search for meaning can engulf and swallow you whole, leading way to a destructive path. Wallowing in self-pity occurs when you’re unable to find peace in a situation. Since creative expression is common during these moments, one may become too comfortable in isolation.

After a while, it becomes a normalized state, and the ability to creatively channel pain is lost to saturation. So, how do you greet it with peace and close the door? If you feel stuck, it’s time to take action. Sometimes, the insight we seek is driven by our own insecurity or inability to let go. Instead of clinging, empathize with yourself. It’s okay to feel what you feel. No explanation needed. You could beat yourself up for it or you can accept it.

We perpetuate negative feelings by choosing to focus on it. When we form a habit to empathize with ourselves and fully comprehend that our current state does not have to be our permanent state, the situation becomes less frightening.

Don’t give your pain a home. It’s a visitor and it’s not meant to stay.

-Jessica Bruno LMHC

Categories
healing Mental Health Mindfulness Psychology Uncategorized

How To Heal Emotional Wounds

Emotional wounds are a complex form of trauma, stemming from painful experiences, which profoundly affect functioning and/or psychological state.

The impact of such a wound is quite similar to physical pain, and in fact, if an individual were to undergo a scan during moments of emotional and physical pain, brain activity would lit up in the same area. Emotional pain can cause physical pain, and if it doesn’t, that wrecked mental state is psychologically painful.

Such wounds typically develop during childhood when needs aren’t met. Abandonment or rejection from a primary caregiver leaves an imprint, which may be carried through adult life outside ones of awareness. Other times, events such as divorce, loss, or breakups occurring later in life leave hefty wounds.

Emotional wounds must be processed, otherwise they’re considered unhealed, eliciting a lasting devastation. It’s like carrying a heavy bag of weights, which presents itself through feelings of irritability, anxiety, or depression.

If you have an unhealed emotional wound you may have difficulty sleeping, isolate from others, grapple with low self esteem, random bouts of loneliness, feeling lost and/or numb.

Healing emotional wounds requires a healthy action plan. Implementing the following steps will help process and heal your emotional scars.

1. Understand your emotional pain. To do this you must be aware as it occurs, paying close attention to your thoughts and what they’re saying. Change your internal dialogue by replacing unhealthy thoughts with healthy ones.

2. Instead of numbing, escaping, or avoiding the emotional pain, fall into it. Notice bodily areas affected by the pain. Unprocessed pain is stored, becoming locked inside your body, revealing itself in unexpected, hurtful ways. Allowing yourself to feel that pain aids in releasing the energy.

3. During such moments, do what your body is telling you (as long as it’s harmless- of course) If you need to cry or scream- do it. Once subsided, comfort and self soothe yourself with positive affirmations such as, “You’re safe and loved,” until you feel safe expressing, validating, and owning your emotions.

4. Journaling is an effective practice to reflect and process emotions. Write down feelings or thoughts that make an entrance throughout the day. It’s hard to reason with the mind, especially when it feels like someone’s running a marathon up there, enslaving you until they finally pass the finish line. Writing helps slow your thoughts down so you can reason with that beast in the attic.

Be patient and persistent. Healing requires time, especially when battling emotions you’ve grown comfortable neglecting.

Create space for healing to take place and be gentle while doing so. Refrain from critical self-talk. Validate your emotions instead of judging them. Everyone is entitled to feel what they feel and that doesn’t define you.

Sending love to those struggling. It doesn’t last forever. ❤

-Jessica Bruno LMHC

Categories
Education Mental Health Mindfulness people psychology

You don’t feel too much. You react too much.

“Emotions suck. Feeling too deeply sucks. If I didn’t care so much, I’d be happier and life would be easier.”

These trending thoughts aren’t unique. Emotions have a bad reputation and in the upmost literal sense- it’s melodramatic.

Think of emotions as a stage and you, the leading character. Your last performance was a total shit show. Audience wasn’t engaged, lines were forgotten and attempted redemption, made matters worse.

Nervously exerting unnecessary effort, caused a tumble off stage and you nearly broke a leg; painful and embarrassing, but fuck that, it was a tough crowd.

Blaming an audience is an easy way out and we do it all the time. You were late for work, two days in a row, and forget a few tasks on your to do list. Your boss expresses concern and issues a warning.

You’re pissed off, but whatever, everyone knows he’s an asshole who sits behind his desk all day, only lifting a finger to stuff powdered donuts in his mouth.

When trivial matters seem catastrophic, balancing emotions feels impossible. Everything bothers you and everyone sucks. A breakup, divorce, or unemployment ( not trivial matters) really succeed in twisting that knife in your back, eliciting a plethora of feelings you’d rather not deal with.

That’s to be expected, right? Shit happens and sometimes it sucks. Emotions arise and controlling them can be a struggle. Maybe if you didn’t feel so much or care about the asshole who upset you- it wouldn’t be like this. Wrong.

We’re quick to judge and label our emotions as being either “good” or “bad.” Is it really that bad or is it bad because you told yourself it’s bad?

Pain is not only a normal aspect of being human, but it’s necessary, informing what we should and shouldn’t do, what we like and what we don’t like. It’s neither good nor bad, it just is. Somethings are out of our control and that’s okay too.

We’re all guilty of self defeating thoughts when facing “bad” emotions, but the emotion isn’t the problem, responses are. You don’t care too much or feel too much, you react too much.

Responding to a negative emotion is often irrational and impulsive. A driver cuts you off merging lanes so you flip her off. In the midst of doing so, you see an elderly woman behind the wheel and suddenly feel awful.

Reactions are preventable. Taking a deep breath, setting aside your road rage fueled anger would have been more effective. You’d probably ask, why am I getting worked up over something so stupid? Its not like I’ve never cut someone off before.

Five minutes is all that’s required to calm down your body and gain a more rational perspective. Acting on emotion reinforces it, like oil to a fire. If you’re feeding the flame, it takes longer to die out.

A significant portion of human suffering is self-inflicted. Ironically, actions are motives to make us feel better but it makes us feel worse. For this reason, awareness is a crucial tool to procure in your tool box, and you do so by being your own detective.

What am I feeling? What’s causing this feeling? Why this feeling problematic to me? Is there alternative ways to view this problem, and if so, what are they? How would I like to respond? Is that necessary and will the outcome be satisfying and effective? If not, what’s a better response?

Asking these questions brings awareness toward the body, allowing you to re-center and gain a more rational perspective of the crime scene.

Self affirmation is also a powerful tool. Feelings are fleeting and that gentle reminder is impactful. “I won’t feel this way forever.” Saying this creates a distance between you and your emotion, lessening it’s influence.

You have the power to transform what you feel by regulating responses. It’s the easier road to travel…so what are you waiting for?

Change your direction.

-Jessica Bruno LMHC