Heart Talk: Better By Monday

“It’s not who you are that holds you back. It’s who you think you’re not.” -Unknown

The clients in my private counseling practice have all started therapy with differing levels of pain. I have a few clients who arrived in my office this year needing a level of healing that seemed to rival open heart surgery for their emotional pain.

The metaphor of needing open heart surgery is powerful – their hearts are broken, and the emotional burden weighs on them creating a heaviness which most of our hearts won’t sustain without damage. Dying (or not living well) of a broken heart can be the result of not attending to the things which keep breaking us down.

There is a range of pain tolerance for the level of broken heartedness we’ve experienced. When clients know that they are in pain, explain the pain, and also can describe what magnifies the pain, they begin mending. The degree to which the heart is broken depends on how we think about our brokenness.

In his song lyrics, Al Green, asks the question, “How can you mend a broken heart?”. Many people coming to therapy are asking that question too. It’s a great question because living and loving can cause bruises and make us feel too fragile to try again. It can be challenging to try to love and be loved and to feel the positive and negative experiences living brings us.

The Gottman Institute has a booklet called How to Avoid the Four Horsemen for Better Relationships. The Four Horsemen are behaviors like Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling, which damage hearts. These four behaviors are problematic, not only when they come from someone who loves us but also when we do them in our own minds. What the mind thinks the heart feels.

One Thing to Do: Take a few tips from the Gottman Institute booklet and let your head be kinder to your heart. Use gentle self-talk, take responsibility for your own thoughts/feelings, know what your personal needs are, and use self-soothing techniques.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.


Negativity: Better By Monday

“Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation.” -Michael Jordon

The Client Intake Form I use in my counseling process asks the new client to list her strengths and limitations. Many clients can fill up the section on limitations, and a few have added negative items by utilizing the margin. It is curious why so many of us can label negative aspects of ourselves, or perceived negatives, more easily than listing strengths.

I remember hearing a lecture in one of my college classes about not using the word “weaknesses” to identify any shortcomings of a client. Limitations, as a category, was decided to be less harmful and therefore adopted by the professionals who created my Intake Forms.

Some of the limitations clients have written down over the years include, lazy, overweight, afraid, anxious, too angry, too sad, overwhelmed, underpaid, bossy, controlling, pleaser, tired all the time, too trusting, can’t trust, and no motivation. There are at least a hundred more limitations which I have seen listed.

McKay and Fanning in their book, Self-Esteem, 3rd Edition, have readers write alternative language for their list of personal limitations. A list they use for an example of a client’s self-talk included having Buckteeth, Blabbermouth, Wishy-washy, and Know-nothing.

The exercise to reduce or rename the negative qualities includes using specific language about each one. The labels a client uses to define herself can become damaging descriptors. The following is the list of derogatory labels with a correction added.

I. Buckteeth became Prominent front teeth.
II. Blabbermouth became “On two occasions In the past year I told something I shouldn’t have.”
III. Wishy-washy became “Tend to defer to others who have strong opinions.”
IV. Know-nothing became “Know little about current events or history; don’t read the newspaper. Know a lot about psychology, pharmaceuticals, children, modern dance, making a family work.”

The new list of limitations is fact based without being a criticism. It helps a person to see how the language they use about their self-perception can cause harm. Also, it helps them see that a fact-based version can be true without being hurtful.

One Thing to Do: Make a list of your limitations and then use filters to write an honest but kind version of each item on your list. (Self-Esteem by McKay and Fanning page 50-51)
1. Use accurate language, not pejoratives.
2. Be specific about incidents of occurrence of the limitation.
3. List exceptions and corresponding strengths.


Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling

Rejected: Better By Monday

“A person with a well-differentiated ‘self’ recognizes her realistic dependence on others, but she can stay calm and clear headed enough in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotionality.” –The Bowen Center

When we pin our self-worth on acceptance or love from someone else – we only feel good while that person loves us. But no partner is always a loving partner, so, we set ourselves up for small rejections.

Adding more people to our circle seems like the solution to the limitations of one partner but spreading the need for incoming love around to friends and family doesn’t guarantee a perfect amount of love. The more sources of love you use to fill-up with the more you are open to feeling rejected when the people you need love from are having an off day.

I do believe that the more people who love you – the better. However, that is only if the love from others supports your self-love. There is a difference between outside love which props up a broken sense of self and receivable outside love which honors true self-worth.

If you need the love of others because you don’t love yourself – you will run out of it from time to time. If you practice self-love, and all the love you get supports this personal practice, you will feel full of love.

We need both. The equation starts at birth with being loved by others. A time when we do not know how to love them back yet. It seems that being given love just because we are alive is the best way to develop self-worth. Once you believe you are worth loving – you get to keep that feeling. You can feel worthy from good parenting, or you can parent yourself into feeling worthy.

One Thing to Do: Remember your worth by using positive self-talk. Don’t cheat yourself with a pep talk or false dialogue of what you wish you were. This Self-esteem Self-Talk is about what you deserved to hear as a baby. “I’m okay.” “I matter.” “I am enough.” “I have made mistakes, and I am learning.” “I make a difference.”

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S, LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Better By Monday: Songs I don’t want to sing.

Better By MondayI really appreciate Hal and Sidra Stone’s book, Embracing Your Inner Critic, where they explore the internal critical voice. They explain that we all have a radio station in our mind call K –RAZY. It’s the station that we tune into when the other stations aren’t working.

The songs played at K-RAZY are all familiar but we don’t love any of them. We can expand the metaphor a little and say that listening to K-RAZY makes us feel crazy because we remember all the words to the songs that make us feel bad about ourselves.

One of the exercises in the book invites us to start paying attention to the lyrics of the songs played on your personal K-RAZY station. You can even ask yourself a few questions to get started changing your tune.

The following questions are a combination of my own self-awareness techniques and an excerpt from the book in the section called, Where Did Your Inner Critic Come From?

  • What negative thinking might have started in Elementary school?
  • What did a teacher say to you that hurt or embarrassed you?
  • What is the worst thing a friend/classmate said to you?
  • What are the “worst characteristics that a person could have, according to your grade school classmates?”

I remember one of my grade school teachers mocking me after I had asked her for help with a math problem. I stood at her desk next to her as she worked the problems while I watched. I had difficulty understanding how she was able to start and end the equation with the right answer but when I followed the process I never got the right answer? My confidence was shattered. As I walked away from her desk, still confused, she sang out loud for everyone to hear, “Off to the funny farm we go, Ha-Ha, He-He, Ho-Ho…”

It really hurt my feelings after I got home and asked about what a funny farm was – I had assumed it was a cartoon.  I felt stupid when I couldn’t understand math. Then that song replayed in my head! A song about where “crazy” people are taken which had been sung about me and my math skills.

That’s when my K-RAZY station started playing the song – “Math isn’t good for me because it makes me crazy.”

This silly but sad story is an example of how easily a child creates a negative/critical script that can last a lifetime. You may have scripts like this running in your life too. Take some time to remember them by using the questions listed in this article. You can’t change the lyrics into something you love hearing if you don’t make yourself more aware of what you’ve been singing along with since childhood. There are songs with better lyrics waiting to be written.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, EdS, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., L.P.C.

Better By Monday is a blog about one thing you can do, try or practice over the weekend to feel a little bit better by Monday