Your Weekly Meditation: It is Possible To Embrace Change

It is possible to embrace change.

Sometimes, when we have been in crisis for some time, we feel like we are fighting everything. Whether the crisis is self- or other-imposed, after it has dragged on for awhile we can feel exhausted, worn out, out of options. Yet, it is what we tell ourselves about the change that matters the most, and also contributes to whether we feel drained or renewed when change occurs. For instance, when spring shifts to summer, and then summer to fall, we just accept it. We don’t fight and resist, wearing ourselves out by railing against the unfairness or telling everyone who will listen how unnecessary it is. In the same way, when we can drop our sense of being at odds with change as it arises, we can see that any temporary discomfort we may feel is not from fighting change, but rather is the direct result of our efforts to embrace change as it occurs.

This week I resolve to: Recognize that often what I perceive as fighting change is really my attempts to accept it, and change my story about what is happening to give myself more credit and support.


Your Weekly Meditation: Rest In What Is

Rest in what is.

When we really stop to breathe in the moment, rarely will we discover that our world is actually falling apart, regardless of what we may have been telling ourselves. Rather, it is just a moment in time, followed by another and then another, and for each of those simple, single moments, we truly are okay. We can get through anything when we remember to come back to our breath and rest in what is. We can also more fully enjoy life’s good times in this way.

This week I resolve to: Stop, breathe, and simply rest for a moment when I find myself feeling wound up, stressed, out of myself, out of control, or otherwise ill at ease in my own skin, in the midst of living my own life.

Your Weekly Meditation: It is Okay To Feel Afraid

It is okay to feel afraid.

We often expect ourselves to leap towards every new goal or undone item on our to-do list with confident enthusiasm. But how often have we actually ever made any kind of change or progress while feeling this way? Most of the time, for most human beings, we feel some fear, some trepidation, some inner dissension, some reluctance, or some resistance to trying something new.  To expect any more of ourselves is both unrealistic and unkind, and to refuse ourselves the right to take action until our feelings improves is even more so.

This week I resolve to: Accept that feeling fear or resistance is a normal human response to taking on new challenges, and encourage myself when I notice my fear and refuse to let it stop me from moving forward.

Your Weekly Meditation: Being a Work-in-Progress is Underrated

Being a work-in-progress is underrated.

Mother Teresa struggled with depression for most of her life and ministry, often wondering whether God even existed. Princess Diana struggled with an eating disorder even as she visited families suffering from AIDS. There are many more stories where those came from – of imperfectly great human beings reaching beyond their own insecurities, inadequacies, and limitations to stay connected and offer what they could to participate in the world we all share. You are the same. We are all the same. In little and small ways, as we live our work-in-progress lives, hurt is healed, anxiety eased, hope rekindled, and progress made.

This week I resolve to: appreciate myself for the work-in-progress that I am.

Your Weekly Meditation: There is Always a Moment of Pure Innocence

There is always a moment of pure innocence.

Sometimes we do things or say things that we regret. Sometimes we don’t say things or do things that we wish we had said or done. We are not going to live perfectly – nor will anyone else around us live perfectly. But we can always find that moment of our own innocence. We can know that we are doing the very best that we can do in that moment as we live. We can learn from less-than-perfect experiences and carry that wisdom forward with us. We learn to forgive. We learn to embrace the present moment. We learn to love. We truly learn to live through our moments of imperfect innocence.

This week I resolve to: find my moment of innocence when anxiety, pain, fear, anger, regret, or loneliness lets me know I am judging myself for any action or decision I can no longer change.

Your Say Yes to Life Monday Motivator: Putting Fear in its Place

Many of us have been shamed at one point or another in our lives for the simple expression of fear.

Feeling fear – it is something that animals, small children, birds, express so naturally. They feel fear, recognize it for the messenger that it is, and do the next right thing. This is because in its primal state, fear is built into our primitive limbic brain – the part of the brain that is wired to alert every sentient being to danger and give us a head start in finding safe shelter.

So how did fear evolve to the point where the simple expression of feeling fear can lead to shame, a desire to hide, or a need to camouflage fear with anger, rage, sadness, blame, or various addictions, just so we won’t be found out?

The actual definitions for fear range from an unpleasant feeling of perceived risk or danger, real or not to a reverential awe.

One interesting question I often ask those I work with is – “who told you fear was unpleasant?” Who would we be in the presence of our own fear if we weren’t so keen on labeling it as unpleasant? These are interesting questions to ask.

Another revealing question those I work with sometimes find helpful is, “since when is risk or danger ever perceived?” By this I mean that when we say these things to ourselves, we are in essence saying to ourselves, “I don’t trust you.” This is very frightening, and our fear only grows.

The truth is that when we feel fear, it is real to us – period, the end. We won’t accept others’ assessments that we really aren’t afraid when we are. We don’t have to stop and ask ourselves, “are you sure you are afraid?” We know. Questioning our fear shames us, and cuts us off from taking the necessary action to move through our fear towards resolution.

Similarly, when we spend precious moments believing that the emotion of fear is unpleasant, unwanted, unnecessary, or untrue, we resist the fear and….you guessed it….become even more afraid.  It is at this point where we may find ourselves turning to various thought or behavior patterns or addictions such as drinking, drugging, using other people’s bodies, stuffing our own bodies when we are already full or not feeling hungry, watching hours of mindless television programs, losing ourselves on the internet, or otherwise “checking out” from our own lives and the people around us.

We are afraid. We don’t want to feel afraid, we don’t know if we can trust that that feeling is fear, we judge ourselves for feeling the fear, we resist feeling the fear….and yet still we are afraid.

I’d like to propose a simpler way to put fear in its place. Let it stay where it is.

Fear is there, knocking on our awareness, for its own reasons. It has a message for us. It comes respectfully, and not without its own trepidation given the often cold reception we offer it. Yet it continues to come. Fear is kind. Fear wants us to deal with what is causing the fear and find resolution and peace.

So the next time you feel fear, before you move on auto pilot into arguing with its presence, discounting it, shaming or judging yourself for feeling it, blaming someone or something else for inducing it in you, hiding from it, or drowning yourself in addictive thought and behavior patterns to escape it, try this.

Simply stop.



Ask yourself kindly, “What am I feeling afraid of?”

Write down your own answer.

If you find you are turning towards any exterior crutches or supports, like alcohol or other people, before doing a thorough self-investigation of your fear, then notice that too, and ask yourself kindly if you can wait just a few moments to do self inquiry on your fear before you have that first drink, make that phone call, or switch on the computer or television set.

And if you find that you are still too afraid to proceed without those crutches, it may be the right moment to consider reaching out for help.

Fear is a great teacher – if we will allow it. Fear can be a good friend – if we will allow it. Fear can teach us that it is okay to reach out and ask for help, and that in the very act of asking for help, we find our first taste of freedom from the fear of our own fear.

At Southlake Counseling, we have more than two decades of expertise with guiding people just like you through the experience of their own fear towards understanding, action, and resolution. Our caring professional staff is skilled in individual and group facilitation methods which can allow fear to safely arise, deliver its message, and depart, leaving us stronger, wiser, and more confident for the experience. Contact us today to find out how we can help you say “no” to discounting, shifting or hiding from your fears, and “yes” to learning from a very wise teacher – fear itself.

Be Well,


Fear and My Bicycle

When I was a little girl, I suffered a fairly serious foot injury as a result of a bicycle accident at the bottom of my grandparents’ driveway. Fortunately, I healed and have no permanent damage except for a nasty scar, but I spent that entire summer having to soak my foot several times a day. I was miserable being stuck inside with a gaping hole in my foot, and feeling left out that my friends were outside playing or swimming at the pool. So for the next few years, I avoided a bicycle out of fear that it would take me out of commission from everything else that I enjoyed.

As I have gotten older, I have developed a huge fondness for cycling, and my bicycle has actually taught me a lot about fear. For instance, while I was on a recent bike ride, it started to rain. I wasn’t yet that far from home, but worrying about the sudden thunderstorms of summer, I decided to turn back and change my route to circle my neighborhood in case the weather deteriorated. While I was riding, I started to think about how this pattern reflects many other areas of my life. When something slightly different or threatening starts to happen, I often become afraid that something much worse will follow, and sometimes I even change my course to not stray too far from what is familiar and safe. How sad is it when I allow my fear of what might happen dictate my ability to leave my comfort zone? And even sadder, what am I missing by worrying that a storm may come, when a good thunderstorm can actually be fun?

In Thom Rutledge’s book Embracing Fear, he proposes that fear is healthy when it is the rational kind and is warning us of some real and imminent danger, yet unhealthy when it is neurotic and based on the past or our imagination. Healthy fear is quiet unless there is something actually threatening our safety, then it is very clear about what we are to do. Unhealthy fear is that constant chatter in our heads warning us about what could happen, even though we may have no evidence to prove it ever will, and it certainly isn’t at the moment.

Back to my bike. Healthy fear was engaged a few weeks ago when a deer ran out in front of me on a bike ride, and I had to make a snap decision whether to go right, go left, or try to stop. The fear was very clear in its message – watch what the deer does, and do the opposite. Unhealthy fear would be in play if I never rode my bike on that road again, because I was afraid a deer might run out in front of me. I have, and it hasn’t. And besides that, if I handled the situation the first time, I certainly could if it happened again. 

So today I went on a ride, and was listening to that neurotic fear chatting away in my head about a totally different situation in my life. “What if … You better not … You know what’s going to happen if …”  You get the picture.

As is fairly common on my bike rides, I had an epiphany as I started to descend a hill over a section of broken pavement. How much scarier is it for me to go fast down this hill, than it was to climb it about an hour ago?  Translation: Even though nothing in my life is a huge struggle at the moment and I’m basically “coasting,” I am more comfortable when things are hard and I’m forced to climb and claw my way to the top. WOW… there is nothing to be afraid of staring me in the face, and yet I had allowed myself to listen to this neurotic chatter about fear that was taking up valuable space in my head, for no reason. Am I really that afraid of coasting along, allowing things to happen, and enjoying the ride?

The answer is NO. I’m not afraid, and I am grateful for the wisdom that came from that descent. 

Thom begins the first chapter of his book with a quote by Oriah Mountain Dreamer: “There is only one freedom: the freedom from fear.”  Ask yourself this question – do you feel free from fear? Can you listen to your fear and determine if it’s a healthy warning or neurotic chatter?  What would you be doing in your life if you weren’t afraid?

At Southlake Counseling, we understand fear and how to listen to it. If you are troubled by fear and want to take the first step in your personal freedom from it, schedule an appointment with us today.

Be well,


Children and Divorce: Issues with Anxiety

As a family moves through a divorce transition, the reality is that many problems and concerns may arise.  Their parents’ divorce or separation can be very difficult for a child, as well as for the entire family.  Issues with children may manifest themselves in different ways, depending on the child and the situation.  One common difficulty that may present itself for children is anxiety.

Anxiety in Children: What Does it Look Like?

Anxiety in children may look different than it does in adults.  Children may have trouble expressing how they are feeling or even be confused about what’s going on inside them.  Anxiety may show up as physical symptoms or illness, such as headaches, stomach aches, or repetitive behaviors like hair-pulling.  Children who have issues with anxiety may lose interest in taking part in activities they once enjoyed, or feel unable to try something new or different.  They may find it difficult to talk about what’s going on with their parents or other family members.

Ways to Work Through Anxious Feelings

In experiences like these, parents may feel overwhelmed and unsure of how they can best help their child through the transition of divorce or separation, especially when issues with anxiety arise. Meeting with a child and family therapist can be very beneficial, and by working together, the therapist, the parents, and the child can develop a therapeutic plan that aims to help the child in a developmentally-appropriate and kid-friendly way.  A therapeutic plan could incorporate different types of therapy, including play therapy techniques, peer-group sessions, or some traditional talk-therapy, depending on the child’s age and comfort level.  Activities can be geared to specifically deal with anxiety issues, in a way that is comfortable and supportive to the child.  By meeting with a child and family therapist, both the parents and the child will gain skills and insight on how to best deal with current issues, and will be able to use those skills when dealing with problems in the future.

A compliment to child and family therapy is joining a peer-support group for children.  Groups like these explore age-appropriate activities designed to increase positive coping skills in a fun and encouraging environment.  It’s a great way for a child to learn that he is not alone in what he is going through, while also gaining knowledge of child-friendly methods and techniques that he can integrate into different aspects of his life.  A sense of camaraderie and accomplishment is encouraged, and children work through their issues in their own way, while making friends and having fun.

A Parent and Child Activity: Deep Breathing

A quick activity that can be helpful to children when they’re feeling anxious (and adults too!) is a deep breathing exercise.  This is a perfect activity for parents and children to do together, as it is one that holds value for everyone.  First, take a deep breath, and hold it for a brief second.  Slowly release the air by blowing the breath out, like you are blowing up a balloon.  Focus on your breathing as you do this, and repeat a few times.  Begin to pay attention to the sound of your breathing and how the air feels when you are inhaling and exhaling.  By putting your focus on your breathing, the anxious thoughts and feelings begin to fall away and your body responds in a calming manner.  The great thing about an activity like this is that it’s easy, requires little practice, and can be done anywhere!  It’s a wonderful tool for children to utilize when they are feeling nervous or scared, and one that even adults will see benefits from engaging in.

Carina Wise, MFTA is a marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with children and families, many of whom are traveling through a divorce transition.  To learn more, contact Carina at Southlake Counseling (704) 896-7776