This past Friday was the opening day of firearm season here in Michigan. For most of my life this day has been one of the biggest days of the year to me. It was a right of passage as a young teenage boy to join my dad in the deer woods.
The day I harvested my first deer is a day I will never forget. Even more exciting was shooting my first buck ever with a bow and arrow!
Since those days as a teen deer hunting has become a way of life; a year round ritual and a means to an end as my family prefers venison to beef.
Last year was a significant year for me in my hunting ritual(s). My oldest daughter joined me. She had tagged along years before but this was different. During the Michigan youth hunting season she harvested her first deer (a buck) with a rifle.
That was the moment of change. I'm not sure that deer hunting will ever be the same for me. Or, at least the ritual of opening day will never be the same.
Throughout this week I have been writing about the 3 C's
1. Change your thoughts.
2. Challenge your emotions.
3. Choose your actions.
I have covered Change and Challenge in depth.
Today I will talk about the skill of choosing your actions.
This step is really the outcome of changing your thoughts and challenging your emotions.
When a person is able to accomplish the first two steps effectively there will usually be a change to their actions.
The real key to all of this is the ability to be aware of what is going on internally. Please understand that this takes a lot of practice. Individuals will struggle and fail repeatedly at these tasks. However; it certainly is worth the struggle when life happens and isn't going the way it was planned, thoughts are racing and emotions are running high.
At that moment you are able to take stock of your internal process and keep cool, calm, and collected. Then act in a way that helpful to you and to others that you are engaged with.
These skills that lead to this type of behavior are life changing.
When you are able to choose and control your actions people will take notice. People will notice the consistant nature of your behaviors.
You will no longer need to rely on increased intensity to gain or maintain control of situations where you feel out of control.
In short you will be more peaceful and in turn I believe others around you will be more at peace.
Please give these skills a try; I believe that will be life changing for you!
Last week I introduced the 3 C's for better mental health.
1. Change your thoughts
2. Challange your feelings
3. Choose your behavior
On Monday of this week I talked a bit more in depth on the idea of changing our thoughts. This idea rests on the priniciple that not all of our thoughts are correct thoughts.
There are definite dysfunctional thinking patterns that many of us fall into. We need to continuously be aware of them and when we find ourselves thinking wrong/dysfunctional thoughts we need to work on changing them to more healthy and correct thinking patterns.
Today I want to talk more in depth on the concept of the second C: Challenging your Feelings.
I believe that this concept will hit home a bit harder for some of you.
As a general rule we live in a society that is enslaved to their emotions. By this I mean that in many situations when we feel a strong emotion we react to it. This behavior often leads to poor choices which translates into poor behavior.
Being an emotional reactor in some ways is the easier way to live. We feel something; we react to it.
When we step back and look at this dynamic with a wider lense we can see that in the long run this is a much more difficult way to live.
Emotionally reacting to the happenings around us leave us feeling strung out and exhausted. It leaves us as individuals being run by fear, anger, and the pursuit of happiness.
I have found that many times when my clients express a certain strong emotion it is helpful for them if I challeng that emotion and ask if that is an appropriate emotion for the situation.
Here is an example. I like to hunt and I have traveled to the U.P. of Michigan. I have hunted in remote places where one can litterally walk for a couple days through the woods and not find civilization.
One my first excursion to the U.P. I got turned around in the woods. When I realized what was happening I felt a strong emotion of fear and panic!
I believe that in that situation it was an appropriate emotion. Certainly not a helpful emotion but for someone who had never been lost it was appropriate.
If I were to take that same emotion and translate it to where I currently live and hunt it would be an inappropriate emotion.
Because where I currently live and hunt is a more densly populated area where I shouldn't be able to walk more than 15 minutes without crossing a road or walking by a house.
It does not good for us to ask whether the emotion we are feeling is real. Of course it is real; we are feeling it.
But rather asking if it is appropriate to the situation is much more helpful.
We do not need to be slaves to how we feel. The next time you are experiencing a strong emotion that is screaming for action try to ask yourself. Is what I am feeling appropriate.
At the very least it may be helpful to go back and look at a situation where you reacted to a strong emotion and ask yourself was the emotion I was feeling at the moment appropriate.
Give it a try; you may be surprised by your response.
In my last my last post I introduced the 3 C's to better emotional health.
The 3 C's are: Change you thoughts; Challenge your feelings; and Choose your Behavior.
Today I will dig deeper into the first C for greater understanding.
In both Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as well as Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy there is the concept of thought changing.
Thought changing is a skill that requires much practice to perfect. It takes a great deal of intentionality and critical thinking skills. It means that we have to be aware of our thought process most if not all of the time.
In each theory thoughts play a significant role in the process that leads to our behavior. For many people this fact is the most difficult to understand.
It is my belief that most people today react out of their emotions and give very little credability to their thought processes.
This is why the first C is so important. If we want to be able to change we must first recognize our thoughts, and then work to change them.
We must also learn how our thoughts affect our emotions.
The chain of command goes like this.
1. There is an external occurance.
2. This triggers a thought (pattern).
3. Also triggering our emotions.
4. We act.
In this process if we can interupt and change our thought (patterns) we have a great chance to understand and challenge our emotional response.
Interestingly enough is that our habitual thinking also leads to our moods.
There is another chain that happens in our thought life that influences our moods.
1. Our habitual thoughts (influence).
2. Our attitude (influence).
3. Our emotions (influencing).
4. Our mood.
In this chain we can see that if we are able to change our thought process then we are able to change our mood.
In both of these series we can see that our thoughts play a critical part in our lives.
If/when we can learn to change our thoughts we will be able to experience life as we have never experienced it before.
In my next post I will look into the next C; Challenging our emotions.
In the psychotherapy world there are a couple of theories that deal with the relationship between events, thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
Those four factors are inextricably connected.
Our culture tends ignore the category of thoughts and jump straight to how we feel. I have heard it said recently that we cannot control our emotions; they just happen to us.
Even more specifically, I was listening to a local radio morning show where the question was asked. "Do we control who we fall in love with?".
Frieghteningly enough people called in saying "NO".
To me that is one of the most concerning statements I have heard.
Commonly I walk through the structure with clients that events happen to us that we cannot control. Because of these external events we have internal responses. Events lead to thoughts and feelings. Out of these thoughts and feelings we act.
So many individuals live their lives as if they are on an emotional roller coaster. Going wherever the ride leads.
Recently while working through events, thoughts, feelings, and behavior the 3 C's where born. They are as follows:
1. Control your thoughts
2. Challenge your feelings
3. Change your behavior
If individuals can learn through practice to incorporate the 3 C's I believe there is great opportunity for change and greater emotional health.
In comming posts I will explore this idea in more depth.
As a counselor I am continously contemplating change and the process of change.
There are many variables in the change process; there are also different stages of the change process.
It has been said that change is one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish. Change seems to be so difficult because it tends to be a very scary proposition.
Leaving old ways behind, adopting and adapting new ways for most people is frieghtening and comes with a great deal of anxiety.
Many people clearly see the need for change and even have the desire to change and still struggle to change.
Recently I have been having conversations about change and the difficulties that lay therein.
One of the comming themes that I am comming across is that often times even when individuals can see the need and have the desire for change they often don't take responsibility for there actions.
Often times individuals simply are not honest with themselves and therefore are not honest with others.
Taking responsibility for ones thoughts, feelings, and behaviors is a crucial step in the change process. Without this individuals may be involved in the change process for others and not for themselves and their own wellbeing.
Taking responsibility for ones actions is a crucial step in being an adult. Let's face it. Many individuals who fail to emotionally and psychologically enter into adulthood are often in need of significant change in their lives. Whether it be changes in actions, attitudes, habits, thinking and so on.
If you are in the process of contemplating change. Ask yourself. What do I need to step up and take responsibility for?
You may find the answer to be a very helpful key for your change to take root.
Living in the Information Age where social networking rules and immediate gratification is the norm raising children has become increasingly difficult.
There are many more obstacles for both children and parents to maneuver. Technology certainly has brought new dynamics and tensions to the family system.
As our girls continue to grow we as parents are forced to deal with these issues. As parents we see one of our major responsibilities is to invite our children into adulthood. To join them as the grow, mature, and individuate themselves from us.
My wife and I cautiously give our daughters more room to explore and expand their world.
One of the most frightening environments for me as a parent to allow our daughters access to is the online world.
The reality is that it's a big, scary, messed up world that in many ways is putting our children in danger. The last I checked that average for exposure to porn is 11. In most cases it is accidental exposure while doing homework.
With dangers like this lurking within our doors what are parents to do.
It's been my experience that parents either overreact or under-react. I believe it is necessary for us as parents to fight to find a balance of appropriateness.
With that said here are some guidelines that we use with our girls.
Start small. Instagram then moving to Twitter and so forth. In my opinion Facebook is not a safe choice for young teens. Access. We have access to all of their accounts. Monitor. We routinely monitor her accounts and the content. We also monitor their texting and phone use. Others. We recruit the help of our friends and family. Normalize. If you start with these boundaries in place it's simply part of the normal routine.