Plant for your future
“The fruits of my labor I enjoy’em while they still ripe” Lil Wayne
I love that lyric. I wish we could all apply the same philosophy to our lives.
People come to therapy and most often tell me “I need you to fix me. Tell me what to do to get better.” My response is always the same. “I can’t fix you, but I can help you fix yourself.” It all starts with the seeds you plant.
Using seed as an analogy, we all become farmers. Seed can be our children, can be our relationships, it can be anything in this world that we plant not for the now, but for the future. Science tells us in order for seed to grow, we have to have soil, water, and sun light. Let’s adopt seed as our goals or desires, and soil, water, and sunlight as the attention and focus we deliver to that seed.
I had a client come to me once and stated “I can’t control my son, he won’t listen to me. I need your help.” As we visited with each other, it came to pass that mom was never home. Mom worked a lot and at night, she enjoyed partaking in the night life because according to her, “I deserve to have a life too, not just be a mom.” And to some extent she was right. But let’s remember what happens to a tree that is often ignored and deprived of water and sunlight.
There was a married couple that came to me due to problems in their relationship. The relationship had apparently grown stale and mundane and both were beginning to live separately from each other, each going their own way on weekends and not having much interaction during the week. “Can you tell us what to do? This is our last resort before divorce!” they exclaimed.
In both these cases, the farmer began to ignore his seed. Sure the seed had grown and blossomed for a bit, but it still needed strong soil, water, and sunlight to keep bearing fruit. Often times we pay a lot of attention to our children or our spouse in the beginning, but slowly begin to wander off. If you want success and happiness, you can not allow your seed to go without soil, water, and sun light.
Remember that seed is planted for the future, not for the now. Children will grow up and if you ignore them, eventually they will ignore you. Your relationship will grow stale if you begin to ignore your partner. We all need love, affection, and attention. It’s what makes us happy. If we provide that, that same love and attention will be reciprocated. A farmer that nourishes his orchard with enriched soil and water under direct sunlight will harvest great fruit.
Do not allow yourself to harvest bad fruit because life gets in the way, preventing you from paying attention to your seed. Lil Wayne worked very hard at his craft to get where he is. Every person that works hard will eventually be rewarded. If you plant seed with good intentions and provide care and attention, that seed will bear good fruit.
The sweetness of your fruit will depend on the labor you provided while it was growing. Remember that.
Life is a journey best enjoyed with those you love the most. – Noe A. Lopez
The difference between someone who enjoys their journey and someone who doesn't is choice.
Too many times people want to focus on what’s wrong in their lives. This is a choice. A choice that person has decided to make. No matter how hard life is or how much adversity you are facing, you decide rather you want to be happy or unhappy.
We all deal with heartache, loss, and despair. Some of us even get angry at life. But ask yourself one simple question. “Where is my focus?” If you are focusing on all that is wrong in your life, then the choice you are making is to be unhappy. A happy person doesn't walk around thinking about all the bad in his or her life.
When I was a student in college, my life was under constant duress and stress. I was a teenage father at 19 years old working two jobs and going to school part time. I was on my own and had no financial help other than the financial aid my university provided. It wasn't much, but it was a small help. I was paying child support and a high interest car loan on a gas guzzling SUV all the while trying to get an education, jumping from one job to my other job. Sometimes my schedule called for work, class, then my other job. There was very little time for rest and relaxation. I wanted to give up.
It felt never ending. And while many other students faced the same or harsher conditions, the prevailing thought was to continue marching forward. We all face the idea of wanting to quit, of wanting to give up. We can recite countless excuses on why it couldn't be done or why it was so hard to accomplish. But this is the choice we have in order to enjoy life. We can choose to give up working for our future or the things we want in life because they were to hard or difficult to attain. Or we can choose to continue working hard and understand hard work is part of the process. I have yet to come across a person who works hard and isn't rewarded.
As your journey winds down, will you be remembering the perseverance that allowed you to succeed, or have regrets of giving up on your dreams? We all have very distinct journeys but the outcome is dependent on the choices you make. Choose wisely.
The single most frequently asked question of me ever since I became a licensed psychotherapist has been “How do I get over a relationship”. The response, has always been similar regardless of the circumstances that caused the end of the relationship. Before you can move on to the next relationship, you have to get over the previous one. Otherwise, you can never be truly committed to someone else right?
When Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first introduced her theory, now known as the 5 stages of grief, it was aimed to help people cope with death and dying. As her theory became widely known, people began utilizing it and understanding death in a different way, a more positive and accepted way. We can now take parts of her theory and it apply it to the death of a personal relationship.
When a person dies, we grieve and mourn them. But what about relationships? They can die too, thus requesting time to process it in similar fashion. One reason why relationships are so difficult to cope with is because people have a hard time of realizing when the relationship has ended. As you read this, think back on how many relationships you were in and broke up only to get back together again, only to break up again. Some repeat this cycle repeatedly. You need to decide first when the relationship is truly over.
Step 1: Classification - So is the relationship really over? Well, that depends on you. Find a time in the day when you are alone and at peace to sit back and reflect on what just happened. Did you have a huge fight over an isolated incident or has this been building up for quite some time now. Humans react to emotion so much so it’s almost a major flaw. As people get angry, they tend to say or do things they might soon regret. Find out first if he/she really meant it was over when they said so. Again, do this when the emotion has simmered and you have had time to reflect on rather or not you want to even continue.
If you were the one that ended it, ask yourself why. Was it due to a recent argument? Infidelity? Mistrust? What was the reason you decided at the moment you did not want to continue it and do you still feel that way. All relationships, no matter what they have endured, can be saved. But it takes two persons willing to continue it, otherwise it has run its course.
Try and listen to your mind. Too many romanticists say follow your heart, listen to your heart, yeah that’s fine and dandy but a heart can’t make tough decisions. This is where you need to search within you and state clearly if you want to try and save the relationship, or move past it. Remember, don’t be afraid of a little heart ache now. For a little ache now is worth the long term happiness in the future.
Step2: Denial - So the relationship is over and you feel horrible. If the other person has identified the relationship to be over and done with, then you might have a hard time dealing with it, especially if you weren’t ready or prepared for it. Working to try and fix things and convince your partner why you should get back together is not a good thing. Your partner should return to you because they want to, not because you have good persuasion skills. Have you ever heard someone say “it’s not over till I say it’s over”? This is a person who is in denial, and a little self-absorbed too. Trying to force a reconciliation will only anger the other person and frustrate you more.
Denial is a short term solution, a defense mechanism used to avoid dealing with the truth. “I don’t care” “I’m fine, no big deal” are common statements made while in denial. Avoiding the truth and realization that it is over only delays the pain and hurt. There’s nothing wrong with trying to reconcile, however it should be done during an appropriate time. If weeks have passed and you’re still trying to reconcile with a person who has shown no interest in full reconciliation, then you are in denial.
Step 3: Anger - Why the term full reconciliation? Too often, a relationship is ended but continues in ways that pleases one person more than the other. The most obvious way is casual sex. This is a major no no. While casual sex satisfies both persons, its only short term and will lead to anger. One person continues receiving the pleasure of sex without commitment while the other person feels like ”hey I still have a chance to get back together” What happens when that doesn’t happen? It’s time to duck cause its about to blow up that’s what happens.
Feelings of anger are common when we feel we put so much into the relationship. Acts of betrayal or infidelity certainly fuel anger like gas to a fire. Anger is a normal
Step 4: Bargaining - Anger follows us at the end of a break up when we have invested so much into it. Infidelity brings out the most anger, scorn even. “Why me, I was so good to him/her” “I was there when no one else was” “This is the thanks I get” Once a person is anger, it means they have officially moved past Denial. But its not a great thing because anger can manifest itself in so many ways.
People tend to misplace anger and project it onto others very easily. “The next person I date is going to be sorry, I’m not going to be the nice guy/girl again” You need to resolve the anger you feel in a positive and healthy manner. Utilizing coping skills such as exercising, journaling, or taking up a new hobby are great methods a person can let go of some anger. In the severe cases, therapy will be beneficial.
When you negotiate with someone or when buying a car, its very foolish to let the other person know your what your position is. How successful will the poker player be if everyone knows he has a flush before betting? Often times a broken heart leads to terrible bargaining. “I’ll do anything you want me to” “I’ll change, I won’t do this/that anymore” Guess what, your not reconciling, you’re giving away all your power and control to this person. Be ready to be taken advantage of
Any leverage is lost by the person who is hurting the most because most often, that person is desperate to save the relationship. During a break up, once a person starts bargaining like this, the results will be short term and fragile. He/She might take you back because you’ve promised to do all these things now, and like in life, sometimes a good deal is to hard to pass by. But in relationships, its usually a case of I’ll take the deal and then return it when I tire of it later.
Is this really what you want? Remember when I said to think with your mind and not your heart? The mind will tell you “no, this isn’t what we want” while the heart will say “I don’t care what I’m giving up because I get to stay with him/her and I love him/her” More often than not, you will end up with buyer’s remorse.
Step 5: Depression - A roller coaster has many twists and turns along with various speeds and thrills. Relationships are like this during and after. During a break up, if you had feelings for this person, you will go through a roller coaster ride of emotions, feelings, and thoughts. Its important to understand what you’re feeling and come to terms with it.
Is it ok to be depressed? Absolutely. A break up can be a trying and difficult time for you in your life. The more you have invested and planned for the future the harder it will be for you. As with grief, its ok to cry and feel saddened. “Whats the point of dating anyone else if their just going to break my heart” Depression can cause a person a person to “disconnect” from the idea of love and happiness. This can isolate you from friends and family as well, sometimes clouding your judgment with negative and irrational thoughts. As most of your friends can attest, its very hard to cheer up you up during this stage.
Step 6: Regret – Be careful to not fall into this trap while in a depressive state of mind. Regret can cause further grief in the long run. Its important to understand what you’re going through in order to identify thoughts of regret and not act on them. Most people will have a small sense of regret while others will linger on regret and thoughts of “I made a huge mistake” Regret can cause a person to fall back into bargaining and use this as a ploy to get back with him/her.
Its ok to have doubts or second thoughts, that’s normal and usually the case with many of life’s biggest decisions. But ultimately, to be a stronger person, you must practice authoritative skills and commit to your decision. Again, this isn’t to say you can not go back and revisit sometime down the road. But there’s a big difference from 2 weeks after a break up and 6 months. You will be in a different state of mind and can be more rational and have better judgment if reconciliation is something you truly want to pursue because of what you think and feel, or if its in response to a sense of regret. Huge difference.
Step 7: Closure – Its only when a person achieves closure can a person move onto the next relationship in a healthy way. After you have gone through the emotions of a break up and you think you are ready t move on to the next relationship, do a moral self inventory of yourself. In AA, this is done in step 4 and this is a very important process of recovering from a heart ache.
A thorough and fearless moral inventory is necessary to avoid how instincts can exceed proper function. You want to try and discover your personal liabilities, not find blame. A misguided inventory can lead you to blame others or result in guilt. The fact that you’re willing to take inventory shows a level of self acceptance and responsibility to your next relationship. Do not be afraid to take this on in an honest way, for once you discover personal liabilities, you can begin to correct them. If we do not know what we did wrong or where we went afoul, how can we improve? If you don’t learn from previous mistakes, expect to repeat them again. Then you get to start the cycle all over again…
Noe A. Lopez, M.Ed., LPC
New Leaf Counseling + Consulting
Like most Americans, I am a sports fan. I watch my favorite teams play and I love hearing the commentary, the main reason I dislike going to sport venues to watch a game or boxing match. However, what I heard a few nights ago from the commentary during game 5 of the Lakers-Nuggets NBA playoffs, left a bitter taste in my mouth.
During the second quarter, a female fan carelessly walked onto the NBA court and dropped a scarf or towel before security escorted her out. Yes, this can be a scary moment for players and fans alike, so there should be caution. But to hear the commentators speak in jest is a reminder of why soo many people are afraid to get help. The stigmata of mental health has been the biggest deterrent to treatment, and after hearing the commentators, it's no wonder why.
Immediately following the incident, the TNT commentators are jeering the woman, saying "she was literally out there" in reference to her mental state. Soon after there was published reports that this woman had different kinds of mental health problems. Rather or not this is true, what ever happened to privacy? Mental health records are medical records and those are protected by federal law. How was it that TNT got these records so soon? As a mental health professional, I was quickly bothered by this.
What was the end result? Twitter and FB, including Youtube quickly began sprouting posts and clips using words like "crazy, stalker, mental, psycho" etc. to describe her. People do not want this label to associate them which is why the stigmata exists. Psychotherapy isn't solely for people who have hallucinations and are hearing voices, quite the contrary. Therapy is beneficial to all, most importantly, people who have some kind of mental health issue such as depression, anxiety, or suffer from Bipolar. As long as a person is on his/her medication and adhering to treatment such as therapy, most people wouldn't even know they have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.
You would be amazed at how many co-workers have gone to a therapist or thought about one. Mental health has come a long ways from the days of lobotomies performed routinely. If you think you might have a problem, seek help. Remember, your brain is the most important organ in the body. If you broke a bone or had cholesterol problems, you would seek out medical attetnion...
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We have entered the world of blogging! Just to share with you my experience of starting a new practice. It has been difficult! Did not realize the amount of work and preparation that is involved. Dealing with the insurance companies and trying to get credentialed has been quite the experience, one that makes me very glad I had the presence of mind to hire an outside company to handle it. Even finding an affordable way to create this website was challenging and had its obstacles. But I am glad I am doing this, I love my job, I love providing comfort and hope for people in duress, its a fantastic feeling to have, knowing that you are helping someone in need. Never has it been more true, "do something you like and you will never work for the rest of your life". The work is in behind the scenes lol