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.


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.

Charm: Better By Monday

“All charming people have something to conceal, usually their total dependence on the appreciation of others.” -Cyril Connolly, 1903 – 1974.

Charm is a word which is given a positive sense, but it has a negative side. To be charming means to be pleasing and to engage in attractive qualities but it doesn’t include being sincere. A person who has charm but is also sincere is endowed with a different characteristic, the ability to be earnest.

The word, earnest, is less popular, but it is a more desirable quality because it combines being zealous with depth or maturity. It is better than charm, which is an effort for controlling appearances, being earnest is an experience of mutual interest both expressed and felt.

It may be that some people go to social events to be charmed? However, It could be about the more meaningful experience if the people in attendance, at any event, were more earnest and less charming. However, the entertainment value of watching someone practicing charm is different than being with an earnest companion. Charm requires an audience member, and earnestness desires two participants who are designing their joined participation.

We can cultivate more meaningful interactions by engaging with others earnestly. This preference for sincerity doesn’t mean devoid of pleasantness, it doesn’t include pretense either, but what it does include is sometimes misunderstood, undervalued and unknown.

One Thing to Do (in four steps).

How to resist charm in preference of earnestness:

  1. Know that you are worth knowing rather than being an unknown audience member.
  2. Pay attention to how your story is ignored and by whom.
  3. Ask questions which help you discover what others value.
  4. Share what you value just because you value it.


Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

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.

Beauty: Better By Monday

“It’s never been more asked of us to show up as only slices of ourselves in different places.” – Courtney Martin (2015)

Beauty has been a label affixed to many different subjects. Once it was placed on the faces and bodies of only a few individuals then its own meaning changed for some of us. It was altered from something to love, enjoy and/or admire into an ideal which not everyone can attain.

Beauty was reduced from something to be found in everyone into something to be possessed by only the genetically fortunate. Then because a standard of “who is beautiful” was established many of us began changing ourselves to gain access to a type of beauty that we weren’t born with.

The message being sent out to us was that “we too can be more beautiful” but it was only if we achieved a likeness to the standard. Beauty had become a measure of one version of itself and those of us who strive to fit into one measurement begin to feel – less than.

It’s as though someone took Beauty (think of a stained glass window with a thousand different panes) and dropped it onto the floor breaking it. Then removed only a few of the glass panes to show the world something really beautiful but limited in its representation of the whole picture.

A fractured view of beauty, while still something to appreciate, cheats us out of the whole concept of how much more beauty exists within us and others.

One Thing To Do: Look for the beauty in your own face and in your own body. Open up your definition of beauty to include yourself and different versions of what’s beautiful.

Join us at an event on May 5th, 2016 Discovering Your Real Beauty- Inside and Out.

Click Herehttps://www.eventbrite.com/e/discovering-your-real-beauty-inside-and-out-tickets-24679419809

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S, LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Your Power Can Be Better By Monday

Knowing what you need to re-balance your personal power in your current relationship can be difficult. It may seem that your only options include unpleasant behaviors such as; being more aggressive, raising your defenses or even finding a different partner.

If your partner is not abusive and you feel safe in your relationship but seem to always defer to his/her suggestions – then becoming more secure in your own worth will help you show your needs and preferences more often.

You may be able to create more relationship closeness when you and your partner respect the need for both partners to have a balance of power within the relational system. The two of you are co-creating that system with every overt decision and covert withholding you each make. Mutual respect is the key to making both partners more equally present.

The ability to balance an external system (relationship) may be easier when you balance your internal system of self-worth. Do you know how to show respect to your partner and not lose respect for yourself? Can you show up for your own best interest when a disagreement threatens your self-esteem?

Showing respect for yourself, your needs, ideas and voice will help your partner see you and know you better. Mind reading isn’t a magical power your partner obtains as soon as you enter the picture. You can make yourself known by showing up more fully in conversations, decision making, and during down time. Respect your need to be known first – then let your partner learn what you know about yourself.

One Thing to Do: Talk yourself through the last important conversation you had with your partner and write down how often you showed respect and how often you felt respected. This is mapping a pattern you engaged in – which you may repeat.

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Your Likability Can Be Better By Monday

Better By MondayAll or nothing thinking seems to be the only acceptable way to conceive of honesty. You’re either honest or you’re not. That is rigid thinking and unfortunately 100% complete honesty is rare. The most deceitful person you’ve known tells the truth sometimes and the most honest friend you have has hedged the truth on occasions.

Maybe we can create a more honest scale for reporting our “honesty average” and start saying things like, “On average, I’m 85% honest and I desire more accurate moments than not.” Isn’t hiding our dishonesty, dishonest? I want us to allow the reality that a person won’t be 100% honest, all the time.

Several years ago I tried to deflect a very important question that my five year son asked me, “Mommy, Is Buzz Lightyear real?” I detoured him towards answering the question himself. When he asked again I redirected him to his preferred perception of his childhood hero. Then after a full day of not lying but not telling him the truth, I gave in to honesty, I told him that Buzz Lightyear was a pretend person, a cartoon. I quickly found out that he wasn’t ready to hear that truth. He was devastated – despair written on his sweet but sad face. I believe now that childhood hope can be born in fantasy.

Dishonesty, although not deemed a desirable choice, happens sometimes for good reasons. But when it is used to trick or trap another person it becomes an unfair (and invisible) weapon. Unfortunately, when lying works it can become a way of life – a way that the people closest to you won’t appreciate.

The irony about lies is that they can be told (or untold) to keep a feeling of acceptability, but if you are only accepted because of a lie, you never feel truly acceptable. Lying which allows you to look different to others doesn’t help you to like looking at yourself. Give yourself more 100% true blue moments. Being honest about who you are, what you like and what you know or don’t know tells people who you are. You can be the hero in your own story even if you are also sometimes the villain – raise your hero percentage for a happier outcome.

One Thing To Do: Stand in front of the mirror this weekend and tell yourself a part of your true story that you keep hidden. If it is difficult to get the words out with yourself make an appointment with someone who can help you feel safe as you share.

Dawna Daigneault

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC. Professional Counseling.

Your Self-Worth Can Be Better by Monday

Better By MondayWhen does self-worth begin?

Some may argue that because babies can hear their parents while in the womb that self-worth may begin before birth. I think that worth begins the first year of life as a relational message from caregivers to care receivers. Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph. D. wrote in her book, Insecure in Love, that “…children develop a way of bonding that seeps into their very being. This way of bonding becomes a working model that sets their expectations for how others will respond to them, as well as for how they feel about themselves.”

Babies are made to be care receivers in the first year of life.  They are often doted on by one or more family members through well intentioned bouncing, hugging, feeding, burping, changing and more.

Please consider that the first year of life is often the worst behavior year for most of us.  When you were a baby  (when you weren’t being sweet) you cried, vomited, peed, pooped, refused to sleep, woke everyone up, and slobbered on everything. If you were attended to and comforted regardless of how demanding your cries were – you were being told over and over – you are worth it. That was solid validation.

Despite the “bad behavior” issues (which no one will let you get away with as you mature) you were given as much comfort as your caregiver(s) knew how to give.  This first year set a precedent for trust (Psycho-Social Stages by Erik Erikson) and for self- worth. You didn’t have to pay for care and there were no requirements for to you follow to achieve care receiving status. No conditions for love were in place.

The conditions you may experience now couldn’t be placed on you then. You got to be true to yourself, in a primal sense, and you were still worth getting to know.

One Thing To Do: Remember your worth this weekend. You can’t remember your first year of life but you can remember what is feels like to be cared for – take that thought and fill up on it for two days.  Repeat to yourself, “I am worth taking care of.”

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Eds, LPC

Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S, LPC.

Zest of Life, LLC.

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