Powerful: Better By Monday

“And yet the dance of anger and forgiveness, performed to the uncontrollable rhythm of trust, is perhaps the most difficult in human life, as well as one of the oldest.” – Maria Popova

Anger is the emotion which arrives pushing our personal power forward like a forgotten best friend who must step up to the moment or regret the missed opportunity. That opportunity is using our personal power to right a wrong, perceived or real, which allows us to trust ourselves again. Anger feels like an ally because she reminds us that we do not have to receive the blow of being wronged (harmed and/or offended) with surrender.

However, when anger is misunderstood as a vehicle to overpower others (take back something we believe has been taken from us), we miss an opportunity to trust our self-respect.

Martha Nussbaum philosopher and author of, Anger and Forgiveness: Resentment, Generosity, Justice, helps us recognize that “wrongdoing” is often a misperception by the receiver. “Notoriously, however, people sometimes get angry when they are frustrated by inanimate objects, which presumably cannot act wrongfully… In 1988, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article on “vending machine rage”: fifteen injuries, three of them fatal, as a result of angry men kicking or rocking machines that had taken their money without dispensing the drink. (The fatal injuries were caused by machines falling over on the men and crushing them.)”

The men who raged against the machine, the vending machines, may have felt a complete loss of control over an object which could not be reasoned with. There was no argument which could persuade, there was no rising tone of frustration which would convince the thing to change its mind and this reality rendered the buyers helpless. The men thought they were getting a fair exchange and expectations were simple.

Cheating the men out of their money had occurred, but it wasn’t an act of harm. Feelings of powerlessness resulted from the loss of money but also from the loss of recourse. There was no one to report the loss too. There was no evidence the money lost was actually theirs. No show of self-respect could have made the machine return the money.

The ability to report an offense, be believed and seek restitution gives us hope that even in the event of wrongdoing – we can restore our human value.

“We are prone to anger to the extent that we feel insecure or lacking control with respect to the aspect of our goals that has been assailed — and to the extent that we expect or desire control. Anger aims at restoring lost control and often achieves at least an illusion of it. To the extent that a culture encourages people to feel vulnerable to affront and down-ranking in a wide variety of situations, it encourages the roots of status-focused anger.” –Martha Nussbaum

One Thing to Do: Practice Relaxation. When you care enough about yourself to calm down, using your personal power in a self-respecting way, you remind yourself you’re valuable. Thinking through what happened to make your anger surface is easier when calm.

  1. Breathe slowly. A five-count inhale followed by a five count exhale.
  2. Use a word which promotes relaxing. Say it to yourself as you breathe in/out.
  3. Trust your ability to problem solve once you feel less helpless.
  4. Ask for help solving the problem, if needed.
Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Affirm Up: Better By Monday

“We all have health inside of us somewhere, even if we do not believe we do.” – John & Linda Friel

The family system a child grows up in includes a repertoire of relational moves which he will believe are “normal.” The moves are sometimes referred to as a dance because once the first move is made, two people (emotional dance-partners) may continue making a series of moves which are repetitions of canned reactions.

The grown-up ready to find a partner is more likely to accept a companion who recognizes his dance moves and responds with similar moves to the ones he has memorized. Sometimes these moves include using hurtful words. The Gottman’s suggest that criticism is one of The Four Horsemen to stop in your relationship. I have learned that when a client is using criticism towards his partner, he is also self-critical.

In a counseling session, we can explore how much berating is happening towards a partner. I believe that verbalized criticism comes from years of practicing silent, internal condemnation, so I suggest the use of introspection. The client who is accused of being overly-critical is invited to report a best-guess ratio of inner to outer negativity. I have heard reports that the rate criticism is happening is at least 4 to 1 (some clients reported a 10:1 up to 50:1 ratio) where for every 1 negative thing the criticizer says to his partner he has thought/said at least four negative things about himself.

A personal repair technique, which has been made fun of on television, is using an affirmation. You may have seen Stuart Smalley on a popular late night comedy series using affirmations to make himself believe he is “Good enough and smart enough.” The audience laughs as he attempts to convince himself of things he obviously isn’t feeling are true. Maybe the disconnect is familiar to us, and so it is funny?

Affirmations have been used to bolster confidence, but confidence and self-esteem aren’t mutually inclusive. Pete Walker suggests, in his book on Complex PTSD, that self-esteem develops from the practice of accepting an emotion as real and valid. So, affirmations which keep us detached from our feelings, or move against our real feelings, may not help build our esteem. Using a positive phrase just because we like the way it sounds is akin to merely cheerleading our inner-child.

The right-for-you affirmative statement could champion your inner child with her own emotional reality as a solid storyline. An affirmation which attaches us to our truth, our life story, and feelings, may be helpful in building self-esteem.

When choosing an affirmation pick only the words which make sense to you. It is important to assess which phrases you wish you would have heard your parents use. You can also write down the negative phrases which your parents used and find an affirmation with the opposite (noncritical) language. If they said, “You always let me down.” The phrase you may have needed to hear is, “Mistakes happen and we learn from them.”

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

One Thing to Do: Use the list of Reparenting Affirmations, provided below, to pick out an affirmation which has a meaningful effect. If you needed to hear it when you were a child – your inner child still needs to hear it now. Write it down where you can see it and say it to yourself several times each day.

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.
Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Reparenting Affirmations by Pete Walker
(Complex PTSD: Surviving to Thriving)

  • I am so glad you were born.
  • You are a good person.
  • I love who you are and am doing my best to always be on your side.
  • You can come to me whenever you’re feeling hurt or bad.
  • You do not have to be perfect to get my love and protection.
  • All of your feelings are okay with me.
  • I am always glad to see you.
  • It is okay for you to be angry and I won’t let you hurt yourself or others when you are.
  • You can make mistakes – they are your teachers.
  • You can know what you need and ask for help.
  • You can have your own preferences and tastes.
  • You are a delight to my eyes.
  • You can choose your own values.
  • You can pick your own friends, and you don’t have to like everyone.
  • You can sometimes feel confused and ambivalent, and not know all the answers.
  • I am very proud of you.

Lovingkindness: Better By Monday

“The willingness to love is not yet love.” –Carrie Marill

The Pali word Metta means “lovingkindness.” Ms. Marrill instructs us to deepen our understanding of using Metta as a way to assess ourselves in a type of meditation process which creates more self-acceptance.

We can look at ourselves through our mind while we sit quietly. The visual experience in our own mind of how we look, how we act, and how we appraise ourselves is powerful.  In a Metta practice, we use the time to self-reflect. We don’t dwell on only the desirable traits, and we don’t let the negative qualities linger either. We stay open to our total sense of self through all of our memories.

Meditation in this way isn’t about having an empty mind. This is having a mind full of everything that is us. We show up honestly, center stage, in our mind.  We use lovingkindness to see all of our parts, good and bad, as they flow into the mind. This is also known as practicing resilience.

Without practicing kindness towards ourselves, we will never master it. Watching the parade of thoughts, beliefs, and history of your life on your mental stage makes you an observer of your experience. The ability to observe yourself and with kindness accept your limitations, honor your mistakes and acknowledge where you used or needed your strengths is resilient.

The process of seeing your choices unfold without judging them can help you reset your self-critical button to low. It can also help you manage any over-inflated ego such as, only acknowledging your strengths, or never accounting for your limits. The practice of observing self can become the habit of self-awareness. Self-awareness with lovingkindness becomes self-acceptance.

Wolin and Wolin developed a mandala with seven resiliencies as a way to provide, “… a mirror in which you can find reflections of a resilient self.”  They suggest that we can frame our story around themes of resilience rather than childhood damage. That we can have our memories and feel proud in the worst of them and safe with all of them.

One Thing to Do: Use one of the Seven Resiliencies as a way to look at yourself with lovingkindness through a guided Metta practice. Remember that meditation can happen in more than one way. It can be a quiet moment of self-reflection.

The Seven Resiliencies by Steven Wolin, M.D. & Sybil Wolin, Ph.D. www.projectresilience.com

We have used the word “resiliencies” to describe clusters of strength that are mobilized in the struggle with hardship. Each of these seven resiliencies develops in phases, taking different forms in children, adolescents, and adults. Our vocabulary of strengths includes seven resiliencies which are as follows:

Wolin MandalaInsight – asking tough questions and giving honest answers.

Independence – distancing emotionally and physically from the trouble in one’s life.

Relationships – making fulfilling connections to other people.

Initiative – taking charge of problems.

Creativity – using imagination and expressing oneself in art forms.

Humor – finding the comic in the tragic.

Morality – acting on the basis of an informed conscience.


Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC


Force: Better By Monday

“I bow my head to the heaven within heaven.
Hairline rays illuminating the universe.
The eight winds cannot move me.
Sitting still upon the purple, golden lotus.”
-Su Dongpo, The Song Dynasty poet.

The eight winds Su Dongpo references in his poem about serenity are praise, ridicule, honor, disgrace, gain, loss, pleasure, and misery (Derek Lin,2007).  These are the influences which force us out of our state of inner peace or off balance within yourself.

The winds which seem positive such as honor, gain, pleasure and praise can inflate our ego and cause us to believe we are above others. This state of superiority is then desired and becomes a position to defend.  A person who gets elevated by the four positive winds may always try to stay above everyone and therefore be detached from the love he needs.

The four winds which seem negative are ridicule, disgrace, loss, and misery. Although most people will not seek for any of these to blow into life – they gust their way to us. The moment we are met with a negative wind which knocks us down it becomes our choice to succumb to that moment and stay down. This way we can never be knocked over again.

The other decision is to learn from the personalized impact of the wind. This learning includes which one of the four winds was able to knock us down. It also includes understanding what caused us to be more vulnerable to that particular negativity.

We cannot eliminate the eight winds from our lives. We can pay attention to how we let them affect our balance. Do we seek the winds which elevate us above others or do we allow the force of some winds to push us below others?

One Thing to Do: Let go of the need to prove anything to others. You can hold onto your values and live from them without needing someone else to honor them. And you can hold beliefs you love without letting differences become proof of disrespect.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.



Peaker: Better By Monday

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”  -Voltaire

Many of us are familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is a pyramid-shaped model made up of levels of needs which people strive to have met either by self or others throughout life.  The basic needs make up the bottom of the pyramid and include food & water, shelter, sleep, and safety. The middle of the model includes psychological needs such as belonging, closeness, accomplishment, and positive self-perception. These four levels are designated as deficits to overcome.

The highest level is called Self-actualization. Achieving the highest level is based on having the basic needs/deficiencies in the first four levels met. Once a person has overcome the deficits in his life he is free to move from Doing life to Being more fully alive (receptive and whole). Being at the top level is living at the peak of the pyramid: a Peaker.

Maslow believed that our ability to be open to awe or our “awe-proneness” depended on which level we occupy on the hierarchy of needs.  He had a desire to understand what allowed some people to peak at the top of the pyramid and why others (even if their needs were met) did not. Maslow created a list of twenty-five aspects of peak experiences which are open to anyone, anywhere to practice.

A person who is taught appreciation and given opportunities to practice feeling grateful may be given a window into the top level experience even if the stairs to get there are still being built. If you haven’t had all four levels of needs met in life but have still felt awe/joy it may be an outcome of practicing appreciation even when things were difficult.

Aspects of peak experiences related to feeling appreciation are:

  1. Perception is unselfish, transcends the ego.
  2. The world is viewed as beautiful, good, desirable, and worthwhile, even as evil and suffering are recognized and accepted as part of the world.
  3. Cognition is about being receptive and teachable – listening and hearing more.
  4. Emotions such as wonder, awe, reverence, humility, and surrender are reported.
  5. People become more loving and more accepting.

(This list is modified from Chapter 23 of Character Strengths and Virtues by Peterson & Seligman)

One Thing to Do: Pick one of the five aspects of peak experiences and try looking at life through it as though it is a new window to view your world.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Almost Love: Better By Monday

“Bad feelings like depression, anxiety, guilt, hopelessness, frustration, and anger are often caused by distorted thoughts. When you can put the lie to these distorted thoughts, you can change the way you feel.”   – David D. Burns, M.D.

In his workbook, Ten Days to Self-Esteem, Dr. Burns writes about different ways people think about their own self-esteem. The list includes positive statements which seem like good things but which can become unhealthy when overused or misused.

The list from one exercise includes the following statements:

  • I am worthwhile if I have close, loving relationships with others.
  • I am worthwhile if I am attractive and in good physical condition.
  • I am worthwhile if I treat other people in a fair, generous, and ethical way.
  • I am worthwhile if I’m happy and like myself.
  • I am worthwhile if I work hard and do the best I can to fulfill my potential.
  • I am worthwhile if I contribute to society.
  • I am worthwhile if I am talented or outstanding in at least one area.

You may find a few of the ideas listed to be similar to statements you make. You may also think that there is nothing wrong with thinking the way you do – especially if you are trying to be happy, generous, hardworking, and loving to others.

While each of those behaviors and or attributes are desirable, using them to feel worthy turns them all into counterfeits for self-acceptance. One theory about why we use specific positive thoughts/words to measure our worth is based on conditions we learned in childhood. A shift occurs in some families away from the unconditional love enjoyed in the first year of life to years of childhood where conditions must be met before love is given.

The first year of life is often the worst behavior year (babies fuss often) with the most acceptance (babies are loved anyway). Once conditions for love are introduced and reinforced – the child who enjoys receiving love begins to learn the “rules for love” in their family. These family rules for being loveable can become internalized and turn into a life script. Instead of fulfilling our worth they become our way to pursue the condition or counterfeits for love such as approval, success, status, and importance.

One Thing to Do:  Write down the statements from the Self-esteem list which you have used.  Then circle the first three words and cross out every word after that.  Re-read the circled words over and over without adding conditions.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Vicious Cycle: Better by Monday

“I believe this kind of excruciating self-torture is caused by denied emotional pain leaking into consciousness as tormented thinking.”  – Pete Walker

Self-torture starts with a feeling, which usually has historical significance from childhood, and turns into a heavy emotion accompanied by critical self-talk.  A vicious cycle is created between the self-talk and the emotions which keep churning out negativity. This pattern spans decades of life for some people because it wasn’t stopped at its small and less damaging beginning and now it seems to big to handle.

As children we may learn to be hyper-critical of ourselves because of the way we were parented. Walker explains that we need to, “… release the part of (our) childhood pain that is an accumulation of unexpressed hostile feelings about parental injustice.”

Until we become aware of our internal dialogue – it runs our lives. A woman who hated the way her mother condescended everything she did may repeat all the negative statements in her head, against herself, as an adult. Her self-esteem will plummet with every negative cycle created. With enough practice using negative self-talk, a person’s self-esteem may have little time to resurface in between vicious cycles.

To stop self-torturing thinking we need to start healing the hurt which initiated the cycle. Healing requires purposeful and consistent mapping of our thoughts and feelings. Once we are more aware of how badly we talk to ourselves – we can substitute a fresh thought. Hopefully, we can feel all of our feelings and stop shaming some as wrong. This gives us an opportunity to use words to understand why they are there, which creates clarity instead of despair.

Jane Roberts said, “The emotions will not feel like stepchildren, with only the best dressed being admitted – they will need to cry out for expression, for they will be fully admitted as members of the the family of self.”

One Thing to Do: Give your inner parenting voice better things to say.

A List of Healthy (Self) Parenting Practices.

This list is modified from one available in, The Tao of Fully Feeling, by Pete Walker.

  1. Verbal Nurturance: Willing to entertain all questions. Generous amounts of praise and positive feedback. Eager participation in internal dialogue, hearing everything without shaming.
  2. Spiritual Nurturance: Guidance to help integrate painful aspects of life. Seeing and reflecting the essential good and loving nature. Fostering self-expression and protection of worth.
  3. Emotional Nurturance: Welcoming and valuing full emotional expression. Honoring crying as a way of releasing hurt. Modeling safe ways to release your anger that doesn’t hurt self or others.
  4. Physical Nurturance: Practice balancing rest, play, and work. Responsibility for personal health through diet, sleep, and exercise. Seeing self and being okay.
Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

My Impact: Better By Monday

“I think that hate is a feeling that can only exist where there is no understanding.” – Tennessee Williams

Compassion is the noble character strength of believing the pain someone else is enduring is real and that your empathy can help with the alienation that pain brings.

No matter who I vote for, that vote is a move against groups of people. I can assume that my vote is the best vote. I may assume that my values are the best values so my vote is the best vote. Thinking like that will help me deny the pain my vote will cause others. It will help me make fun of those people while they are hurting this week by saying they are being ridiculous, or silly, or babies.

Even if I have done my due diligence and assessed that the person I am voting for is the only choice I can make – in good conscience, it is a vote which alienates someone, somewhere. I think it is easy to say, “Not my problem.”  That phrase works wonders to help a battered woman leave her abusive partner, but it can also be a statement of apathy about my effect on others. Apathy about the people we move against when we are moving for our own interests is a silent and powerful weapon.

My choices, even my best choices, may have a negative impact and that can be hard for me to comprehend. It is much more desirable to think that my best choices only help the country. The fear that some of my minority clients are feeling this week is real for them. It resurfaced this week because someone who talks like the people who have abused them, not just this year but for generations, was given the highest power over them.

That is frightening for someone who has always felt marginalized. But, that isn’t the thing which causes the most fear. The personal fear surfacing this week is more about the people who glossed over the hateful words because they weren’t directed at them. An absence of understanding that what is best for me is harmful to others has silently made it more acceptable for raging, shaming, and attacking, using the same hurtful words, from many new mouths.

A definition of verbal abuse (a form of emotional abuse) from Healthy Place, an online mental health resource, will help us remember what abuse sounds like. If more of us stop abusive language, even when it is not directed at us, we can elevate more than just ourselves. Please go to healthyplace.com to learn more about verbal abuse.

“Verbal abuse is the most common way to attempt to control the behavior, thoughts, and feelings of another human being. Controlling behaviors are designed to manipulate people into doing what the abuser wants them to do under the guise of love or respect or abject fear.” – www.healthyplace.com

One Thing to Do: In the book, An Adult Child’s Guide to What’s Normal,  Friel & Friel give us a list of six steps for  starting an abuse recovery process:

  1. Identify the wrongs that happened in childhood. (Abuse no one stopped)
  2. Have your feelings about those wrongs, don’t just talk about them.
  3. Embrace those feelings.
  4. Share those feeling with others, don’t just verbalize them.
  5. Make a decision about our relationship with the person/people who hurt us.
  6. Then we can begin to heal and forgive. Not before.
Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

The Chase: Better by Monday

” Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing. I would choose pain.”

– William Faulkner

I heard a joke when I was in Elementary School about some kids going to an old, abandoned, and dangerous castle. They had to travel across fields and over the moat, through the dark and winding hallways, down the steep and narrow stairs, to get into the basement dungeon. More searching ensued through darker hallways with doors needing unlocking, until the last and biggest iron door with multiple locks and chains was standing between you and the prize inside. The door opens, and the most horrible, ferocious, kid eating monster lurches towards you. You run. You have to run all the way back through all the doors, down every hallway, up all the stairs, and over the moat to get out into the fields where the monster finally catches up with you. He then says, “Tag you’re it.”

I found this joke entertaining, and I remember retelling it to many patient friends and siblings.  The joke came to my mind after I listened to a client explain how her pain seemed to chase her through her life. Once we processed through what her pain was trying to tell her, she exclaimed, “Where have you been the past twenty years!?” (I took this as a statement of relief)

The metaphor of being chased by pain fits many different client narratives. The client will feel their pain get-the-jump on them, from out of nowhere, then the client will retreat or run from it but never seem to get far enough away because the pain finds them again. The pain seems bigger and scarier when it becomes a chase scene which seems inescapable.

I am not going to complete the story by saying that once your pain catches up, it simply wants a game of tag.  If that were the case, we would all play with our pain instead of running from it. I believe something more poetic is happening.The chase is about the pain racing to rejoin the other aspects of you that are acceptable.

The pain has been neglected, abandoned, or rejected by our misunderstanding. When we reject part of our story, we have something (a part of us) we believe is not worth sharing. That belief can grow into a fear of being unworthy.

It is a returning to self, not a pursuing of you, occurring.  If you turn and see it, listen to it, let it cry or complain, and accept it back into your life story the chase ends and new chapters of your story begin. This is practicing self-compassion.

One Thing to Do: Turn towards your pain through writing. If you have a place to record your hurt, angry, afraid, or desperate feelings, you are giving them importance. They are no longer a discarded part of your past – they can become a valued part of your life story.

Even if you don’t like every part of your story, you can love the person it’s about.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Negativity: Better By Monday

“Thinking is the greatest torture in the world for most people.” -Voltaire

I have heard a client wish out loud for the ability to think only positive thoughts. That sounds like something good to wish for, but it isn’t. Being only positive is unhealthy. Negative thoughts can protect or defend us from something which is too good to be true. Some negative thoughts are an asset in difficult experiences, helping us understand the personal impact.

There are times when negative thoughts turn into a pattern of negativity. The shift may be unnoticeable to the person who is well practiced at beating himself up inside his head. Catching this pattern before it solidifies into a character trait may require feedback from others, self-education, and counseling. Many therapists are trained to help you recognize the distortions which keep you stuck in an unpleasant pattern.

Dr. David Burns provides a list of Cognitive Distortions, negative thinking patterns, which occur automatically but can be replaced by rational thoughts. “When you’re upset, your negative thoughts will chase each other around in your mind in endless circles. Once you get them down on paper, you develop a more objective perspective.”

The Cognitive Distortions Checklist from, The Feeling Good Handbook, is used as a way to assess which distortions are happening within your negative thoughts. You may have one distortion which you use most but you may also use a few different distortions at the same time. Any distortion you identify as part of your negative pattern can be stopped.

Cognitive Distortions Checklist:

1. All-or-nothing thinking: Absolute black and white categories.
2. Overgeneralization: A negative event is perceived as never-ending.
3. Mental Filter: Filter out the positives and dwell on the negatives.
4. Discounting the positives: Insist that positive outcomes or qualities “don’t count.”
5. Jumping to conclusions: (A) Mind reading using a negative filter.
(B) Misfortune-telling-predicting things will turn out badly.
6. Magnification or minimization: Blowing something out of proportion or shrinking it.
7. Emotional reasoning: Becoming the feeling. “I feel stupid, so I must be stupid.”
8. “Should statements”: Use “should,” “must,” “ought,” and “have to,” in a critical way.
9. Labeling: Personify your shortcomings. “I’m a loser.”
10. Personalization: Blame yourself totally when you are not the only one at fault. Blame others and overlook your contribution to the problem.

One Thing to Do: Write down some of the negative thinking you have used recently. Then using the checklist to identify which distortion underlies the thoughts you are having. The last step is to look at the distortion and replace it with rational thought.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, ED.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.