Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Passive-Aggressive Behavior is the worst

Advice of the Day: Don't engage in passive-aggressive behavior. 
<full stop>
Just, don't. It's an easy trap to fall into and we often reflexively do it, but it does nothing positive for our relationships and in fact is one of the very worst ways to communicate. I personally have to make a conscious effort to not be this way, and it does take a lot of mindfulness to keep from defaulting to it. But because I spend so much energy defying my instinct, I have *very little* tolerance/patience for other people behaving passive-aggressively towards me. If you recognize yourself as someone who is frequently passive-aggressive, it would behoove you to get started on your recovery, because I *promise* nobody likes it when you do that. If you have something to say, just say it. Don't make people dig it out of you or do a bunch of extra work to clarify how you're feeling and why. It is much easier to avoid or resolve conflict when we are being direct. 
First things first, though, while everyone has heard of passive-aggressiveness, I think we are not all clear on what that actually is. People ask me about this a lot, especially in couples counseling, so here's a basic definition: 
**pas·sive-ag·gres·sive (adjective): of or denoting a type of behavior or personality characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation.**
In other words, it is a way of avoiding using our words to express what/how we actually feel and instead going about it indirectly to get the same point across. Often we do this because it gives us an "out" if it's ineffective to later claim that the other person misunderstood or misread. It tends to happen when we don't feel entitled to or capable of more directly expressing ourselves. 
Examples: 
- saying "It's fine" or "I'm fine" or "I'm not mad/upset" when CLEARLY it is not fine, you are not fine, and/or you are mad/upset.
- intentionally waiting (or failing) to respond to something you know someone is waiting for you to reply to.
- taking your time on something in order to communicate that it is not important to you.
- comments like "Oh I see how it is!" and "Sure, you could do it for HER" or "Don't go to any trouble".
- intentionally messing something up to avoid having to do it instead of just saying "no".
- backhanded compliments 
In all of these cases, you are communicating by not communicating or by intentionally mis-communicating or misleading. You are not actually saying what you mean, which is confusing. How is anyone supposed to connect authentically with us if they don't know how to take what we say/do? Do you know how much work it is to undo conditioning that has taught people not to trust the word of other people because they're so used to passive-aggressive behavior? 
So, if you are upset, and the person you're upset with says, "Hey, are you okay?" - what is the point in claiming "Yes, I'm fine" if you're clearly not? Anyone who is either a) very literal or b) has grown impatient with your passive-aggressive behavior will shrug and be like, "Okay, good." And move on as though you are fine. Because you said you're fine. 
You don't then get to be mad that the person didn't know you were upset. YOU SAID YOU WERE FINE. 
But that's the thing, though, right? You WANT the person to know they've harmed you and made you upset. They can SEE AND FEEL that you are upset, which is why they asked in the first place. Skip all the extra steps and just say, "Yes. I am upset. It is not fine. It hurt my feelings when you did x thing." And move directly into resolving the issue. 
STOP BEING PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE. 
Here are some specific tips: Don't withhold communication. Don't be intentionally hurtful just to "get back" at somebody for hurting you. Don't not respond to something you know a person is waiting for you to respond to just to make a point or to leverage power. Don't pay backhanded compliments. Don't say things like "I see how you are" or "I see how it is" if what you're really saying is "I'm seeing you do something for someone else that I want you to do for me" and don't say "Don't go to any trouble" if what you mean is "Would you please go to this trouble for me?" Don't expect people to read your mind. ETC ETC. 
Communicate clearly, directly, effectively. Even if it's awkward and you feel vulnerable doing it. It's WAY BETTER than working so hard to get your point across through all the back channels. I love and appreciate the people in my life who are direct and honest with me. I value the people who say when they're not fine, and who if I ask "do you need anything?" and they say "no" aren't secretly mad at me for not doing something I didn't know they wanted or needed done. I love knowing that I have at least a handful of people I can count on to not be passive-aggressive, and when I accidentally default to passive-aggressive they can call me out, or I can call myself out and apologize. Your relationships will benefit from working on this. (I promise).

Monday, November 7, 2016

New Class Ideas....

I'm considering adding some new classes, as well as adding an online video option for the classes I already teach so that people can learn this stuff with me from a distance. Let me know if you'd be interested in that latter thing or in these classes (if you're in STL)! 

Email me at amy@Millercounseling.org 

The class ideas: 

1) Shame, Vulnerability, & Intimacy (using Brene' Brown as a jumping off point)

2) Talking To Anxiety: How To Get Your Brain to STFU (practical strategies rooted in CBT on how to deal with anxiety outside of meds/therapy)

How To Pick A Therapist

People frequently message me to ask for recommendations for counselors in STL, or to ask me how to find a therapist in general. I don't mind this at all, but I often don't have anyone to refer to since I don't do a lot of networking in this area. I just kind of do my own thing, and most of my clients are either word of mouth referrals or they pick me from an internet search. I frequently refer to my friend Ryan Thomas Neace's practice, because I genuinely think he's good and hires good people. 
But I'm going to just tell all of you at the same time, being perfectly honest: it's hard to find a good therapist who's the right fit for you. You have to be prepared to shop around, and to move on from a therapist who isn't a good fit, without getting discouraged. I myself have tried five different ones in the past five years, and none of them were a good fit for me (which could be more about me than them, I'll admit) BUT more importantly, I really didn't think any of them were particularly good insofar as none of them really challenged me or gave me *new* stuff to think about. 
That said, I can give you some tips that might help you find a counselor that is a good fit for you. 
First things first, DO NOT JUST PICK SOMEONE WHO TAKES YOUR INSURANCE. I understand the desire to use medical insurance, and even the need for it. I'm not saying don't use your insurance! I'm just saying don't make this THE deciding factor. Here are a few things to consider:
a) when you use your insurance, you have to get a medically reimbursable diagnosis. So if you don't have some significant MH issue, you'll at the very least get a diagnosis of an adjustment disorder, which your insurance may or may not pay for. Having a diagnosis on your health records isn't as big of a deal in the age of the ACA since you can't be denied coverage due to preexisting conditions, but you'll probably still want to be aware that you're getting a diagnosis, and some therapists may not explicitly state this.
b) If you have a deductible to meet, you'll be paying the same amount out of pocket that you'd pay either way, until you meet your deductible. So if you're not going to meet it, it makes no difference whether your therapist bills your insurance or you pay them directly and bypass insurance.
c) Lots of really, really good therapists don't take insurance, (myself included), for these and many other reasons, so you are seriously limiting your options by only looking at therapists who do. Just saying. I get it if you actually can't afford therapy without your insurance, but don't ASSUME you can't. At least check to see if a therapist you like who doesn't take insurance may have a sliding fee scale, for example. Many of us do! Some therapists offer out-of-network reimbursement, too, so you may be able to recoup part of your fees. 
Next, in terms of how to pick a counselor, the easiest thing to do is to use the Psychology Today search engine (or just google it, or use some other search engine) and look at A LOT of profiles. You can sort by all kinds of criteria. Save the ones you want to come back to in an ongoing list. Look at all of their websites in depth. If they have blogs, read them. Try to get to know them that way and to get a sense of what their style is. 
Along those lines: trust your intuition. If someone's page "feels" good to you, or you think they look nice or kind or something nebulous like that, trust that. I get that you may be afraid you're deciding something *so important* based on something that's intangible and irrational, but honestly you have to like the way your therapist's face looks. They have to feel good to you. I know this sounds shallow, but I don't mean they have to be attractive, I just mean you have to find their face pleasant to look at. You have to like their vibe. You have to LIKE THEM. You're going to be telling this person all of your innermost thoughts & feelings, so feeling safe and comfortable and "liking" them is crucial. 
This is actually really important because the therapeutic relationship is the most important factor in healing. What this means is that the connection between you and your therapist is a HUGELY significant part of ***what makes you get better***. A counselor can have all the technical skills and education in the world, but if they don't deeply connect as a human being with their clients, all of that education is basically useless. (Side note: this is why I share more with my clients than most therapists would approve of, and why they "know" me in a way that isn't consistent with "traditional" therapy models. I think it's important for my clients to feel connected with me, and I have to basically fall in love with them in oder to be able to work well with them. It's that human connection that makes it work.) 
So all that said, I'm still happy to field your questions about who you should go to. But I'll often refer you to these suggestions as a place to start. Feel free to share this post with friends who may be looking for a provider. 
TL;DR: Do research. Trust your gut.