Dating Detour: Better By Monday

“I finally decided to date dead guys for a while.” I heard myself say to a client recently. She laughed and so did I, but it wasn’t a joke. Before I met my husband (or before I could recognize him when I met him) I needed more experience with the type of man I found attractive – so I found a few guys who couldn’t say no to my invitation.

My first definite date night was with Henry. His full name is Henry David Thoreau. He had the most interesting things to say. I would half-seriously share my appreciation for his wisdom out loud, saying, “Henry you have a keen eye for observation. I love seeing the world through your eyes.” I talked to Henry often about how his words spoke to me.

I secretly hoped he was able to hear how delighted I was to have his company on a Friday night. I enjoyed believing that he was an angel, sitting on a cloud, listening to me read his words to myself. “You’re a big help, Henry,” I would tell him, “You are just the kind of guy that makes me swoon.” On our second date, it occurred to me that he may hear from many girls every Friday night, but I was happy to be one of them.

I knew that I needed practice dating men who were respectful, insightful and intelligent so that when I met one, in person, I would recognize those qualities.  Henry was all of those things and he was great to spend a whole evening with – I could listen delightedly to his ideas for hours.

When Henry was finished sharing his thoughts, I was able to enjoy the company of Leo Buscaglia and Erich Fromm. You may be thinking these guys left some big shoes behind for someone to fill. I believe they left the right footprints behind for me to follow.

It was no surprise to me that when I met my future husband in the summer of 2010 – I first fell in love with his writing. He posted on his Facebook page with creativity, poise, and depth.

I had become familiar with words and sentiments which touched my heart. I had learned to fall in love with ideas that made life seem more beautiful. Then when similar ideas were right in front of me – receiving them was comfortable.

One Thing to Do: Think about what you love in people and then find those qualities in books, movies or music. Purposefully take in the beauty of the qualities you admire through the medium of your choice – let it fill you with delight and determination.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna J. Daigneault, Ed.S. LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Respond: Better By Monday

“No one becomes more understanding or forgiving because he or she reads somewhere that this is a good way to be.  Abstract concepts, no matter how laudable, have little effect on behavior.”  -McKay & Fanning, Self-Esteem.

Practice makes purpose a reality. Talking about how to be more understanding is a start but practicing understanding is more valuable. The beautiful thing about compassion, love in action, is that when you begin to behave with compassion towards others you develop a compassionate mind in the process.

One Thing to Do: Practice having a Compassionate Response.

McKay and Fanning wrote about the eight step process to respond compassionately in their book, Self-Esteem.  They suggest that a compassionate response contains three components: understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness. Remember that forgiving someone who has been abusive is often best done with professional help and when you are safe.

The three themes show up in a series of eight statements (see below) which we are invited to commit to memory by the authors. This quick reference to moving with compassion towards others and self can be adjusted to fit statements that you think reflect your style while staying true to the theme of the segment.  Also, repeat a set of questions (to yourself) until you can create the desired response.

The Compassionate Response

Three Questions to Create Understanding:

  1. What need was (he, she, I) trying to meet with that behavior?
  2. What belief or awareness influenced the behavior?
  3. What pain, hurt, or other feelings influenced the behavior?

Three Statements to Create Acceptance:

  1. I wish ______ hadn’t happened, but it was merely an attempt to meet (his, her, my) needs.
  2. I accept (him, her, myself) without judgment or feeling of wrongness for that attempt.
  3. No matter how unfortunate (his, her, my) decision, I accept the person who did it as someone who is, like all of us, trying to survive.

Two Statements to create Forgiveness:

  1. It’s over; I can let go of it.
  2. Nothing is owed for this mistake.


Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Boasting: Better By Monday

“Usually, the greatest boasters are the smallest workers. The deep rivers pay a larger tribute to the sea than shallow brooks, and yet empty themselves with less noise.” –W. Secker

I have heard about the fault of boasting since my childhood. I was instructed never to praise myself out loud or in private because it would give me a “big head.” I had no idea what my grandma was referring to, but I could visualize myself with a head twice as big as normal, and I did not want that happening to me.

If a Brook could feel good or bad would the feeling be a positive experience, even pride provoking to the point of boasting? That question makes me wonder about a path we all travel which starts with mindless doing. The River and the Brook are mindlessly doing an activity and will stay that way; we change with awareness.

When a new toddler begins walking, evaluation by the child of her skill level, doesn’t happen immediately. The curiosity of a new experience seems to be enough motivation to sustain the interest in doing the activity of walking. Walking well is not an awareness for us, it is a mindless activity, at the beginning.

As the toddler becomes a more proficient walker, there is still little interest (or judgment) in being the best at walking. In our social involvement, we hear about being the prettiest or the fastest but not the walk-iest.

It seems that none of us have learned to tie our worth to the ability to walk. Walkers seem satisfied with being able to walk without falling. We don’t even reference ourselves as “walkers” although as we become more aware of BE-ing a “thing” we call ourselves runners, hikers, bikers, surfers…

The awareness of self, being able to do something others can’t do ( like the River versus the Brook), seems to be where boasting happens. The inherent nature of the differences between a river and a brook make the competition of their contribution to the ocean seem unfair.

In boasting, the Brook, is wanting to get the credit that the river gets for exerting the lesser effort. In this case, the boast is a lie.

The Brook is lying to itself about the importance of something it cannot do as well as the River. The irony is how demeaning the boastful expression becomes within the one who makes it. The need to boast magnifies the inability of the Brook to produce.  The focus is on what is not enough – confidence is diminished.

The Brook, instead of boasting, could focus on babbling about how she is sufficient and just brooking along in her own way.

One Thing to Do: Think about something you needed to boast about from your past. Write the incident down and then make an effort to discern how much lasting positive attention was gained by boasting and how much negative reinforcement the moment had on your self-image then and now.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Whole: Better By Monday

Healing is becoming whole.  Such wholeness, …emerges as a self-organizing process that has a natural drive to create harmony, a flexible and adaptive state that is created with integration. – Daniel J. Siegel, MD.  Founding Series Editor, Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology

At the close of the last millennium, the Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) field was created not as a type of therapy but as a vehicle to inform therapies and practitioners about some “universal discoveries” which provide new insight and understanding about healing and wholeness.

One idea which has been given importance in the IPNB uses the acronym: COAL which stands for being curious, open, accepting and loving. Dr. Siegel wrote, “ Being mindfully aware entails letting go of our propensity to filter ongoing perceptions through the lens of previously existing judgments, or prejudgments, and attempting to be open to whatever arises as it arises.”

Being able to be present and let whatever is going to happen just happen is being in a state of openness which is also a state of letting go (of control). There is a beautiful thing that happens in this state of being – you find out that you can trust yourself.

While you stay open to people and moments with those people, you become more aware of who you are, what you think and what resources you naturally have. The freedom to think your thoughts and pull from your resources happens while you are open and accepting of your experience. You are being true to yourself not controlling how you are seen or what people think of you. The real you will show up.

One Thing To Do: Set down your impression management skills and use COAL in your next conversation. Enjoy how mush easier listening with a curious, open, accepting and loving heart feels.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.


Pretending: Better By Monday

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut

If a pretense must be employed to make self-confidence seem more present and real within a person than it is, then does the pretending make the person more or less confident?

I believe that the immediate reward of pretending is a sense of confidence but not in oneself. The confidence that a pretender develops is in an ability to pretend. The usefulness of the pretense reinforces being false which doesn’t make a person more secure in who he/she is.

My motto on this matter is: Never pretend – Always protect. Never pretend to be someone you are not and always protect the person you are. When these ideas are together we get the benefit of being true to ourselves with the added protection we want which pretending seems to provide but doesn’t.

Never pretending means being you but it doesn’t mean answering every question about you that someone asks. It also doesn’t mean exposing parts of yourself prematurely to an audience (of one or more) before you have their trustworthiness established. Pretending is hiding parts of yourself and therefore reinforcing that there are things about you that you believe are not good enough.

Always protecting yourself can be a graceful skill of honoring some inquisitions and disallowing others because you know yourself and respect your need for safety. Pretending seems to be a way of getting around feeling vulnerable but while it temporarily shields our truth from an unkindness – it restricts us from being seen by the people who really like us and to whom we make sense. It also sends your inner child a destructive message (you’re not enough) which feels awful. When you tell your story keep the right to pace yourself and hold back whole chapters until sharing feels safe.

One Thing to Do: Make a list of ways you have pretended in the past. Then next to each item write down what you hoped the pretending would do for you. Did it work? Was there another way to achieve what you wanted without pretending?

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Not Do List: Better By Monday

“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” Steve Jobs

Many of my client’s talk about having a To Do List, for therapy, to achieve personal growth. Talking about dreams, goals, and progress is common in counseling. Adding order to the path a client wants to take makes sense because writing something down can make it feel more present and obtainable. When lists of what a client hopes to accomplish get made – there is an opposing reality that hits.

Sometimes, we don’t move towards the things want on our To Do List because one or more of them oppose things that are on an unwritten “Not Do” list. The Not Do List is short but serious, and it contains a rigid rule or a requirement of loyalty.

Your Not Do List is the one running your choices more than the To Do list can. Because every step you take towards an item on your To Do List is measured by how aligned it is with what is on your Not Do List. Any goal you hope to achieve can’t move against a family/social rule you know not to break.

If Connie has items on her To Do List such as climb a mountain, start weight lifting, and move to Nepal with her best friend; but she fails to pursue the goals, it may be because the Not Do List has an item written on it (from her mother) which sounds like this in Connie’s mind: My loyal daughter will always be here for me. Therefore, she won’t take risks.

Whatever is on your Not Do List may be a rule you have been conditioned never to break. It can be a fear based statement or one which requires loyalty to someone wanting power in your life.

One Thing To Do: Make a list of the goals you hope to achieve in the next ten years. Then ask yourself what would make pursuing those goals most difficult. Go with your first idea and jot down the reason next to the goal. Ask yourself if there is a rule underlying the reason you can’t pursue that goal.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Vice: Better By Monday

“It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.”

-Abraham Lincoln

Finding some balance between letting our limitations overwhelm us like heavy weights around our ankles versus letting our strengths seem like impenetrable armor is difficult.

When I was young I was taught about the opposites that exist within me at home, in school, and at church. One part of me was my good side the other part was my bad side, in cartoons this was represented by an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other.

Later in life I learned to frame the opposite ideas of good and bad differently. I was taught in college to help clients see their strengths and their limitations and that both can be good and bad. The context of how useful the strength could be, in different situations, made it a good or bad thing.

The idea that a personal strength could be a bad thing was a curious concept. How could something good like strength, ever be a bad thing? In an assessment called, The Friendly Style Profile (2004), a strength in excess can become a liability.

An example given in the profile is that a functional quality (or strength) in times of duress can change into a dysfunctional version of itself. A person who is normally careful (functional strength) can become wary (first level of excess) when under distress and can shift into being obsessive (second level of excess) when overwhelmed.

    [Careful > Wary > Obsessive]

Another route to excess: Hopeful >becomes> Disillusioned> becomes> Despairing.

The equation I have come to believe is that what limits us can make us stronger or better, in the right circumstances, and what makes us strong can feel bad, in the wrong circumstances.

One Thing To Do: Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. Write Good at the top of one side and Bad at the top of the other. List all the qualities you believe belong under each title. Then look at how each good thing could become a problem if overused, and look at how each bad thing can become a life lesson.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Stop Controlling to Lower Anxiety

“Remind yourself that you don’t have to be in charge – that, in fact, it’s impossible for you to be in charge.” ` Wayne Dyer

We charge a lot of things. We charge batteries and credit cards – we charge ahead and take charge of meetings – we charge devices and hope to be in charge of our own lives. But, we are less in charge than many of us prefer to realize.

Being in charge sounds like the best way to live life but what if the opposite is just as good? Some people think that letting go is the opposite of taking charge? Letting go is the opposite of holding on – reception is the opposite of being in charge.

Instead of controlling people or events you receive them, as they are. Reception is the precursor to gratitude because you won’t be grateful for something you never receive. Being in a state of reception can be something that feels totally open and without any expectations or it can have just enough structure to allow for some personal comfort.

Life is lived somewhere between the opposite poles of enjoying freedom and needing structure. That space is where we can either lean into structure to the point of controlling, with an outcome of more anxiety or leaning the other direction into freedom from requirements.

One Thing To Do: Find your sweet spot between the structure that gives you a sense of security and the freedom that allows opportunity by practicing reception this weekend.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.