By Guest Blogger Gray S. Moulton, MA, LMFT
I was sitting at work, reading my personal e-mails (LOL), when I received an invitation to write an article about popular issues I encounter in my work as a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT). At first I thought, “What in the world do I write?” and then, “How do I condense it all into 600-900 words?” Here it goes!
Clients always ask me, “Am I crazy?” I chuckle (to myself, of course) and ask questions. Do you have an audience almost every time you go to the bathroom? Is going to the grocery store alone your idea of a good time? Is sex the last thing on your mind? Of course you aren’t crazy – you’re a parent! As a therapist (and a mom to “almost four-year-old”, Isobella) I know that there isn’t enough time in the day for parents to do what needs to be done to succeed in life, much less succeed in cooking a decent dinner that night. Couple the lack of time parents have with other stressors such as relationships, jobs, parents/in-laws or dramas with friends, and one can see quickly where thoughts of being crazy stem.
So exactly how do we maintain some sense of normalness when everything feels so crazy? When I know for sure, I promise to spread the wealth. For now, though, I encourage my clients to stop for a minute and take a deep breath. Really – this helps to get oxygen to your brain, which in turn helps to settle anxieties. Next, consider that normal is truly the definition that you apply to the word. One person may think that toting 3 kids to appointments while grocery shopping is torture, whereas another person may feel that the chance to tote children around, in itself, is a blessing. Realizing that we give meaning to thoughts, ideas and emotions is a big step. Once realized, we then find out that we also have the ability to change those meanings.
It’s a strange thought, I know, but practice it – think about something that has been nagging you today. Me, my house needs to be cleaned, there are dishes on the counter and clothes in the washer. This is a disaster. I take a deep breath (and another because it sometimes takes more than one for me). Then I realize that I can change the meaning behind my thoughts. Is this really a disaster? My mother would think so, I feel certain. I, though, am not my mother. So who is my messy house bothering? Really – just me. Why? Because of my mother’s definition of cleanliness.
When I put my own thoughts to it I can come up with such different meanings. The dishes signify that I actually had food to eat with my family last night and that I spent time doing something else (playing CandyLand and looking for lost markers) instead of washing dishes. The house is dirty. Yes, but it was also vibrant with the laughter of friends and family during the holidays. The clothes are still in the washer – fantastic, that means that I got something new to wear for Christmas and don’t really need what is in the washer. Wow – when I look at the “disaster” with new meanings – the context completely changes. It’s amazing how we can create differences in our daily lives just by changing the way we think about things. Sometimes a tiny change can make such a huge difference.
At the start of the New Year, most folks make resolutions. I’d like to encourage you to think about your definitions and/or meanings to your thoughts. I’ll help out. Think about the words RIGHT & WRONG. What are the definitions? What do they mean to you? I tend to think that there really isn’t a right or wrong way (unless relating to morals). Instead of stating that something is right or wrong, which implies negative feelings, I think that there are just DIFFERENCES in OPINIONS. My mom taught me to fold towels one way. My husband’s mom taught him a different way. We argue over something this silly because we both think we are right and the other is wrong. Changing my thought processes has allowed me to see that neither of us is right or wrong, we just do things differently and differ in opinion on how it’s done. And you know what, that’s okay.
Gray S. Moulton, MA, LMFT – BA in Psychology with a Minor in Human Development from UNC-Greensboro. She holds an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy from Appalachian State. Gray worked three years for the state prior to working 10 years in a private, non-profit counseling agency. Currently, she works full time for Carolina Behavioral Health Alliance, LLC and has a small part-time private practice in Winston Salem. She has been married 11 years to Michael with one child, Isobella (soon to be 4).
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