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How Fear Gets in the Way of Your Relationship by Erin Rackham

MP900387501Every couple I see in my practice comes in needing help with one thing in their relationship—connection. They may not know how to put it into words, or may have other concerns on top of this, but after a few sessions, it always seems to come down to this core need to feel connected to their partner. It may seem like a bold statement to say that every single couple needs help with this, but I believe it to be true because so many of our problems could be solved without outside help if we were truly connected to each other.

Now, it might be important here to define what I mean by connection—true connection—because I’m not just talking about the “Hi, how was your day?” after-work-greeting in the kitchen. The connection I’m talking about involves being emotionally attuned to one another so intimately that we can sense when something is off and we can create the space in our relationship to share and talk about it with each other. But again, this sharing and talking is not the typical problem-solving that most couples do. This sharing involves being willing to explore our deep, dark, scary emotions of fear and inadequacy and allow our partner to comfort us through each of these feelings instead of pretending they aren’t there.

MP900309139This is difficult work to do in therapy because for most people, they’ve never experienced a relationship that was safe enough for their insecurities and pain to be divulged in, let alone for it to then be listened to, respected, and taken care of. Most of us have dealt with this lack of emotional safety our whole lives by either anxiously pursuing for reassurance that we matter to our partner, or by withdrawing to avoid the feeling that we aren’t good enough for our partner. In therapy, we ask you to break your patterns and take a risk with your emotions, knowing that they will be held precious by your therapist at first, and eventually by your partner as well.

The neat thing about all of this is that when we are in love, we have a natural tendency to protect ourselves with defense mechanisms because the person we love has more power than anyone in the world to hurt us, but we have another even more powerful desire to love and cherish that person, we just let fear get in the way of our execution sometimes. Therapy is a safe place to start trying to put aside the defense mechanisms and the fear and start practicing emotional vulnerability with one another, which can lead to that true connection we all so desperately need to feel.

Erin-Rackham-HeadshotAbout the Author: Erin Rackham is a licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. She earned an M.S. from BYU and is currently completing her PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy. She is currently a therapist at the Provo Center for Couples and Families.

Health & Wellness by Dr. Spencer Scoville, DO

Vegetables‘Health and Wellness’

What can we do to improve our health & wellness? I think this is a great question for the New Year or any time of the year. We spend the majority of our time focused on work, family, church and community responsibilities. We get our kids to school and all their activities. We race to the Doctor when we are sick. We try to lose weight when our pant size increases or exercise a little when we see our muscles sag. Many of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about our health or wellness until we are in deeply in need of it.

I think it is useful for each of us to spend a little time defining what health and wellness is to ourselves. Benjamin Franklin in his early autobiography tracked qualities that he felt needed improvement. If we do not define what we want in our health, I see it difficult for us to achieve the health goals we desire.

I define health or life as movement. Think of the things you enjoy doing. Even if it is going to the movies, it is much easier to enjoy them if you are able to move yourself to get there. I love to run. I have a goal of being that 90 year old guy out running. I am almost 40 and already have quite a bit of gray hair—so I am already “that old guy” when I am running. I want to do everything I can to maintain my health or ability to move and do the things I love as I age.

I talk to people every day about health. Many of these people are sick and we focus on the specific health concern they have that day. It may be a sinus infection or a back ache or a well visit. With all of these visits, I have an overriding desire. It is to help them improve their health. The 2 things at the top of my list to talk about are quitting smoking and getting moving. If you don’t smoke, I can think of few things that will improve your health over the years as much as getting moving.

Athlete Running Through Finish LineGetting moving, statistically decreases our risk of death. It may be painful when we start to be more active, but movement generally helps us. Exercise helps us control our weight which is directly linked to all-cause mortality in multiple studies. In one study midlife running speed predicted cardiovascular health 30-40 years later. “Heart disease risk increases markedly for every minute longer it takes you to run a mile.” We will be healthier if we exercise consistently.

I often feel an improvement in my mood when I exercise. When I exercise, I am accomplishing something I understand to be good for me. So that thought, makes me feel better. I will often feel an elevation in my mood as I exert myself. I feel a little silly as I am pushing to finish a run and have a hard time suppressing a huge smile.
These studies and personal experience tell us that activity is good for us. I am not talking about drastic life changes that require spending hours at the gym. I am talking about thirty minutes of daily movement. This can be as simple as a daily brisk walk.

I recently read “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. He reports that most of what we do during the day requires no specific decision because it is a habit. I find that if we don’t have to decide in the moment then we can be more successful. Some people want to work-out for 1-2 hours twice a week. This is good, but I like the commitment to daily exercise and the routine that it creates more. If it is not a routine, it is too easy to stop
Many times unforeseen things can interfere with our goals, but having strived for to attain what we truly want with our health will provide benefit. Wellness is a combination of our physical and mental state that allows us to comfortably do the things we enjoy doing. One individual may love to run and they define success by their ability to keep running fast. Another may define it by their ability to play with their grandkids or go for a walk to the park. Let’s define what we want from our health and strive to get moving.

logoAbout the Author: Dr. Scoville is a Family Physician in Utah at the US Synthetic Clinic. He enjoys the outdoors, running, and cylcing.

“Little Shifts:” Creating Change by Rebecca Hall, CCF Intern

Chess pieces on chessboardCreating change in one’s life can seem intimidating and stressful, even when change would be extremely beneficial. According to Suzanna Stinnett, author of “Little Shifts,” you can “create change, with every single choice every day all day long.” In this book, Stinnett gives practical baby steps to create a decided difference in one’s life. She is transparent as she chronicles the positive reactions these changes have brought in her life. Stinnett specifically wrote the book to encourage people to use their imagination in every day situations. She opens with a personal example of daily anxiety she experienced at a busy intersection. The anxiety provoked at the intersection created negative thoughts and chronically derailed her day.

Stinnett decided to simply change her path to work. This simple task of seeing new scenery every week on the way to work shifted her thoughts in a positive direction. She believes that little changes can have significant differences. Another example she gives is an intentional decision to make eye contact and smile at someone. This can brighten your attitude and mood, with a bonus of improving the environment of those around you! Since smiling can be difficult for some, she recommends practicing smiling in the mirror to calm yourself and then to try it out on neighbors you pass.

Power Struggle Between a Man and a WomanWith society moving at a rapid pace it is difficult to stay calm and focus on finding happiness from within. There are many influences portraying an idea of what we need. Instead of listening to people and the media she recommends sitting in a calm space and realizing your authentic needs. When one taps in to their reflective and creative side they are then opening new doors for future paths and ideas. The next step is to write these ideas down and begin to use them.

stress 4While some people enjoy change, others find it scary. It helps to remember that change does not have to be overnight nor does it need to be drastic. Small shifts in our thinking and living can create positive affects. Stinnett emphasizes to always be tuned in to your creative side and learn to create peace in your everyday interactions. One has to work on being positive, and daily reminders such as uplifting words written on your wall or mirror can help facilitate the desired outcome. Creating a peaceful environment requires desire, skill, and patience. It will be initiated by a little action for most, and that is a good thing. According to Stinnett, every little shift is a radical act.

About the Author: Rebecca grew up in Houston and graduated this spring with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from the University of Houston Clear Lake. She intends on continuing her education with a masters. Currently, she is exploring different fields that relate to sociology. Rebecca’s passion is encouraging others and assisting them with their needs.

What Makes a Real Leader? by Chad Olson, LMFT

Close-up of four business executives standing in a line and applaudingWhat Makes a Real Leader?

I once read a comment about leadership that changed the way I thought about the topic: Leadership includes both what you do and what you leave. This simple, yet profound statement has changed not only the way I view leadership, but has actually changed the way I lead. All too often I believe we put excessive emphasis on what we do, while neglecting what we can leave behind.

There are many opportunities to lead in our world today, whether they include business pursuits, volunteering in our community, serving in our school or churches – yet, I believe that one of the greatest opportunities to lead is in our own families. The leadership roles in families may often be overlooked or underappreciated, but if you consider the original definition of leadership – not just what you do, but what you leave – it is hard to imagine another situation in which you could lead like you can in your families. Within the family setting, leaders are found in the different roles that we play. For example, parents, grandparents, uncles/aunts, or brothers and sisters can take the opportunity to appropriately lead their family. The quality of a good leader in a family setting could be defined as how other members of the family are influenced when the “leader” is gone. As an example, a parent may try to instill in their children the attribute of hard work. The best indicator of whether this attribute has been acquired by the children is not while the parent is looking over their shoulder, but when the parent allows for autonomy and gives their children chances to demonstrate this attribute. If the child has a good work ethic without being shadowed by the parent, you can take it as evidence that the parent has left a part of themselves to the future generation – a characteristic of true leadership.

traditionWhile completing my thesis project during my master’s program, I came across an interesting research question: Do parents matter? While the answer may seem obvious, there is quite a debate in the family studies field. Some genetic behaviorists claim that it doesn’t matter how parents parent, a child’s genes are what determines behavior. On the other hand, family scholars assert that parenting has a direct impact on children’s behavior. For the focus of my research, I studied a topic called the intergenerational transmission of values. Scholars wanted to know what process adolescents and young adults went through to accept and integrate certain values typically accepted by our society. There was a high correlation found between the values espoused by these youth and young adults and their parents. Thus, the research states that the values that parents/grandparents possessed were being “passed on” to the next generation. What a powerful example of being a leader in a family who not only does something, but who leaves something behind.

My Grandmother Taylor has demonstrated this principle in my life. She lost her husband in a horrible scouting accident. She was a young widow raising five children. She was faced with economic difficulties and had to be frugal with her finances to provide the basic necessities for her family. One could often hear her saying, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” Her thriftiness is something she taught my mother who in turn taught it to me. As a parent, I strive to teach this principle to my children. Four generations will be influenced by this wonderful leader!

As you consider different opportunities you have to lead in your family (or other contexts for that matter), don’t forget it is not just what you do, but what you leave that matters.

OlsonAbout the Author: Chad Olson is a licensed marriage and family therapist in the state of Utah and the clinical director of the St. George Center for Couples & Families. He enjoys working with couples, families, and teens on various issues.