by Tova Kreps, LCSW
Power is the ability to act, to choose and to influence the world around us. It is one of our basic human needs. We start seeking power from infancy. A baby cries to get his mother to respond and feed him. The two year old tests her ability to do it her own way. The teenager wants the power of choice. The adult needs to know that he can act and influence. The loss of power is helplessness, one of the key components of trauma and a cause of depression.
We use our power for good when we create, make wise choices, or influence circumstances for the betterment of others. Our powerful strength should be used to protect and defend, to save, and to build. When we love proactively, we can powerfully influence others to feel good, to love back, and to thrive. When we listen well (click here for information on my upcoming Intentional Listening Workshop), we have the power to bring healing to others with our presence.
The abuse of power is when we use our strength to control others, or to get our own needs met at the expense of others. Domestic violence is an example of the abuse of power; one person controls another person through the use of physical threat (see more in this newsletter). An abusive person fears that if he can’t control others, then he is powerless himself. Oddly, he feels that others control him when they don’t do things the way he wants. But at core, the abusive person is insecure. He doesn’t know that he is lovable, so he has to make his partner or child obey in order to alleviate his own anxiety of abandonment.
No one wants to feel powerless, unable to influence the world around him or without choices. We can alleviate our fear of powerlessness by either controlling others to selfishly get only our own needs met, or we can use our strength to love others and get our own needs met as a by-product. The latter choice is the most powerful, secure and satisfying. For those of us who have a personal relationship with God, we also have the power of the Holy Spirit working through us. With God’s power in us, and the security of knowing He loves us, we can use our power to change the world around us. May you go in power.
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by Tova Kreps, LCSW
“I can do it myself”, says the little girl as her mother patiently watches the slow shoe-tying. “I can handle myself at the party,” says the teenager as his mother silently prays and says, “Of course you can.”
When we mothers love our children, not helping them too much can be a challenge of personal discipline and an art of wisdom. If a mother helps too much, it communicates to the child that she doesn’t believe that he can do it himself. Hovering and constant “helping” from parents actually communicates to a child that he is incapable of the task at hand, discouraging him and lowering his self confidence. Like helping a butterfly out of its cocoon, helping too much not only tells a child that he is weak, it actually will make him weak and incapable. On the other hand, not helping a child and allowing chronic failure and a lack of guidance in the world she lives in, leaves her feeling unloved and not valuable. The neglected child is robbed of the “advantages” that attended children have to negotiate the world in order to have the best opportunities for success. So how does a mother walk such a tight rope of helping without hurting?
I know and admire a mother who does such a thing. Let me tell you about her. She knows all about her children, attentively observing and noting their every detail, need, strength and desire. Like Jesus’ mother Mary, she ponders all of these things in her heart (Luke 2:19) and prays. After prayer, she is peacefully present for her children. She doesn’t ask her children to calm her fears about them because she trusts in God, not them. She doesn’t push them to overly engage for her sake, but is available whenever needed to listen and to respond. She waits for them to ask for help. When they do, before giving advice, she asks them what they think would work, what have they tried so far, or how they have solved a problem like this before. She teaches them to build on their strengths, reminding them that “they can do it”. She anticipates needs so that items seem to magically be available when called for, but takes no credit for these behind-the-scenes efforts. She’s not perfect, and laughs at herself when she’s not, allowing those around her to do the same when they fail. She knows that her presence is valuable to her children, so she takes care of herself in order to be fully with them. And she is always with them, even if absent in proximity.
I want to be more like this mother. At this stage in my life, this means attempting to be home for my teenager when she is likely to orbit. I try catching glimpses of her thoughts and actions so I can enjoy her while she’s here and take care of details for her transition to college. For my daughter who is now also a mother, I try to be present to hear her struggles with two small babies. I also try to be present with my grandchildren too, changing diapers along the way and slowing down to notice the flowers.
When we are like this mother, we help our children see what God is like. Jesus promises to be with us (Matt 28:19-20, Rev. 3:20). He sends us the Holy Spirit to guide us, comfort us, and come along side of us (John 14:16-26, 2 Cor. 1:3-5). It seems to me that God is very much like this mother I know. We often don’t realize He is there with us, but He is. Like many mothers, He certainly goes without credit for His care and love, often until years later when we see in hindsight what He has done for us. He may even seem too hands-off, letting us flounder and fail until we learn our lessons and return to Him to ask for help. God does not always “help” us as we would like, but He is present, and tells us that He is enough (Psalm 23). God knows how to walk the tightrope.
I hope to be more like this special mother and more like God Himself. I hope that for all of the mothers that I know.
Giving yourself permission to feel them.
Have you ever experienced a time where your feelings were hurt and you had to just brush it off, say “it’s okay”, and make light of the situation, instead of acknowledging how you felt and then doing what you wanted with those feelings? So many of us have been taught to dismiss our feelings, to “suck it up”, to move on, and that crying, hurting, and feeling are all signs of weakness.
But what if this isn’t true? What if you learned that allowing yourself to feel can be one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself?
By identifying our emotions, and then allowing ourselves to experience them, we are being truthful with ourselves. We are reminding ourselves that we are not invincible, and that we in fact, have feelings. We’re acknowledging that we care for others and that we want want to feel cared for too. Through this, we are giving ourselves the permission and freedom to be human.
Contrary to popular belief, dismissing your feelings ultimately gives them control over you. Even when we push them down, our feelings don’t just go away. Deep within, they linger and follow us. By feeling them, you are releasing them, relinquishing their control as you become a more empowered self.
Before dismissing or acting on any of these negative emotions, identify exactly what is that you are feeling. Are you feeling hurt, frustrated, unimportant, not cared for? In order to identify your feelings appropriately, you have to have a relationship with yourself. Just like we do in our relationship with others, we need to listen, communicate, trust, and forgive ourselves. We need to accept who are we with the understanding that these feelings don’t define us, but rather influence us. Whether this influence is positive or negative is up to you.
Once you’ve identified what you are feeling, you can begin to experience these feelings in the capacity which they were meant to be experienced. This could take days or it could take minutes. Regardless, it is important for you to allow yourself to experience these feelings for as long as they need to be experienced. Remember, this does not make you weak. Instead, you are on the road to a more empowered you.
Now that you’ve identified and acknowledged these feelings by allowing yourself to experience them, you now have the power to choose what you want to do. By responding, and not reacting, your actions are intentional. This response could be to let the feelings pass and move on, or it could be to confront the individual who wronged you. Ultimately, your response will be more productive, as you now have the necessary knowledge about yourself and the situation to communicate effectively.
By understanding and experiencing this process, you are taking control of your emotions, thoughts, and actions. You are taking control of your life. You’ll no longer need the approval of others but will instead thrive off the validation of yourself. You will begin to notice how free you feel from the control of your emotions, and as Kimberly Bell wrote in Empowering You: 11 Ways to Shift Your Personal Paradigm, “We experience a new emotional freedom. We naturally gain strength, confidence, and inner peace. We begin to feel a new exciting energy-it’s our personal power. Our life experience is forever changed ...”
Register for the upcoming Wellness Workshop "Stronger from the Inside Out: 3 Steps to Empowerment" and dive into this topic in depth.
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by Tova Kreps, LCSW
That’s right, happiness is a choice, even over the holidays. You can experience more happiness by taking the following steps:
1) Choose to be happy.
Could happiness be as simple as “trying to be happy”? That is the conclusion of one recent study. Two groups of subjects were requested to listen to happy music. One group was asked to try to be happy while listening. Those who tried actually felt happier than those who did not.
2) Focus on and express your gratitude.
3) Connect with others.
5) Imagine and ask for what you want.
6) Engage in meaningful activities.
7) Accept your past losses so that you can live in the present.
8) Give to get.
Holidays and Loss - Radio Talk 1080 AM, "Coffee Talk" with Debbie Peterson
Kindness: the Secret Ingredient for a Happy Marriage
By Tova J. Kreps, LCSW
Why do only 3 in 10 marriages remain happy and healthy, we ask (1). Are financial stressors, cultural differences, childrearing conflicts, or the political climate the culprits? While all of these factors may play a part, social scientists have begun to tell us that the secret ingredients of marital success may be more simple than these. Research has shown that kindness, along with emotional stability, is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. That’s right, just by watching couples interact – childless or not, straight or gay, rich or poor – researchers can predict with up to 94% accuracy whether or not those couples will be broken up or still together and happy within several years (2).
So what is this kindness quality? According to Merriam Webster, kindness is “having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help others; wanting and liking to do good things and to bring happiness to others”. Kindness in a relationship describes the spirit that a person brings to a relationship. Is there a bent towards generosity and making others feel good or towards contempt and criticism?
Those who are kind tend to think of their kindness more like a muscle to be exercised and developed than a permanent character trait. So how can we develop kindness muscles? Consider these few intentional choices.
It seems obvious that being kind is a good way to love. But there are reasons that we may withhold this favor. Here are a few possibilities:
In order to have successful relationships, kindness is an essential part of our love. The hopeful thing about knowing this is that we can learn to be kind, and we can choose to act kindly. We are not doomed to failure in our relationships. Kindness is not mysteriously out of our reach; it’s a skill set and the results of daily choices we can master – even when we are tired or frustrated. We may have to give up a bit of anger and power, and we may have to learn new skills, but it will be worth it. Ongoing, satisfying and happy relationships make life full and rich.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
1. Ty Tashiro, The Science of Happily Ever After, January 28, 2014.
Forgiveness… for the Healthy Spirit and Mind
By Tova J. Kreps, LCSW
How would the grieving families of terrorist-attack victims respond if the bomber were later captured and then set free? What if he said that he was sorry; could he then be forgiven and released from all consequences?
Forgiveness is a challenging issue. Do nice people always forgive? When is forgiveness the right thing to do? When are consequences still appropriate?
A decent definition of forgiveness is “to release an offender from the victim’s right to revenge”. Thus, a starting place in understanding forgiveness is to recognize that those who have been offended do have a “right to revenge”. It is human nature to long for justice. We want the wrongs to be righted, for sins and penalties to be balanced on the scales of justice. When justice is denied, our spirits are unsettled.
Perhaps this longing for justice is not only human nature, but a reflection of God’s nature in humans. Many religions believe that good-deeds must outweigh bad deeds in order to have a happy eternity. In Christianity, one cannot enter heaven unless he asks for his sins to be paid for by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Even in religion, someone always pays, and there is a deep need for justice to be served.
This need for justice is at the core of forgiveness.
Forgiveness, which comes from emotional health, therefore, must start with the understanding that humans have a dignified right not to be sinned against and that justice is deserved when they are. Then, and only then, can one choose to forgive the debt, and forgo justice for some higher principle. When forgiveness is granted because the injury itself is minimized or the value of the victim’s dignity is ignored, then the forgiveness is emotionally unhealthy. This unhealthy forgiveness creates more damage, adding insult to injury.
What guiding principles then, would be even greater than the human right to justice?
Repentance of the offender might elicit reversing the wheels of justice. If an offender admits his wrongdoing, acknowledges the pain caused to the victim, repays all debts, and makes life changes to avoid future transgressions, forgiveness is the appropriate response. Sometimes the debts to be paid still include natural consequences or penalties that the offender must bear. But forgiveness from the heart of the victim to the heart of the offender may be granted in light of true repentance. The victim is called to forgive from his heart, to release his right to revenge and to give mercy instead.
Without repentance, granting forgiveness to an offender is the voluntary gift of the victim. Love for the offender might motivate the victim to suspend justice. Mercy for the offender’s suffering might outweigh the desire for revenge. And lastly, Gratitude for one’s own forgiveness, granted by others or God, might also motivate someone to grant forgiveness.
Forgiving and forgetting is not actually possible. We do not forget our sufferings. We can, however, accept the fact that we have suffered, and we can let go of the ongoing pain of holding anger and bitterness in our hearts. Choosing to forgive, to let go of the drive to make an offender pay, allows the victim to live in the present with full joy.
Forgiveness is a choice to release our right to revenge and leave justice to natural consequences or eternal forces. Knowing that we have a right to justice, and then granting the gift of forgiveness because of a higher principle, is the mark of human nature elevated to its highest potential. Forgiveness is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves; it sets us free.
Turning obstacles into opportunities: the benefits of resilience.
By Heather Walton, Registered Mental Health Clinician, July 2016
Every day, we tackle many challenges that normally don’t require some extraordinary quality to overcome, like being patient in line, resolving an argument with a friend, or finishing that one pesky task that’s been looming for weeks. But there are also life-altering obstacles, the ones that can knock us down, like getting a divorce, being laid off, or losing a family member. So how do we get back up?
We become resilient.
Changes like these are disruptive and can be incredibly difficult to deal with, but the more resilient you are, the better you are able to handle life’s turns. Resiliency isn’t just our capacity to recover from adversity; it’s also our capability to come back stronger. This is not a genetic trait. Instead, research has shown that we are born with the ability to develop resiliency. Generally, those that are resilient exhibit the following qualities:
It is said that our families, communities, and larger social environment also influence our ability to be resilient. However, the important thing to remember is that because resiliency can be developed, there are numerous things that we can do to cultivate resilient characteristics, such as:
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If you are having trouble with turning obstacles into opportunities or want to learn more about this, you can speak with a mental health professional at Wellspring Counseling. Click here to schedule an appointment, or call 786.573.7010.
Additional resources about resilience:
What you need to know - Tova Kreps, Wellspring President
"Healing Trauma, Healing Humanity" by Rolf Carriere.
Seeing from your partner's eyes - Tova Kreps, Wellspring President
Mark Laaser's ministry, Faithful and True, offers helpful guidelines for couples that have experienced sexual or emotional betrayal in their relationship.
Full Disclosure - Written by Mark Laaser, Ph.D. and Debbie Laaser, MA, LAMFT