Glenn Bigonet, M.A.
Mental Health Counselor
Certified EFT Couples Therapist
What to Expect on this Page
On this page I write on a variety of issues about life and human behavior. The purpose of this page is to give you some insight into who I am and how I approach my work. It is also my hope that you will find something on this page that you find helpful for you in your life. Feel free to email me with any thoughts or feedback you have about anything I have written here. If you would like me to address a particular issue that I have not yet written about feel free to let me know that as well. I will add topics from time to time so feel free to come back and see what is new.
Functional vs. Dysfunctional Behavior
One topic that people often discuss is how dysfunctional or functional someone is. I have heard it said that everyone is dysfunctional and on some level I agree with that, but dysfunctionality is a spectrum and understanding the difference between what is functional versus what is dysfunctional is vital to creating a more functional and happier life.
Some people believe that the difference between functional and dysfunctional people are that functional people don't have any problems. I view it that functional people can have just as many problems as dysfunctional people but functional people acknowledge their problems and address them to the best of their ability where dysfunctional people run from their problems or act as if they don't exist. Please note here that I said that functional people address their problems to the best of their ability, not that they resolve each of their problems as they address them. Some problems we simply cannot solve. The functional person will address their problem and make the best of the situation where the dysfunctional person will do everything they can to avoid it.
The Value of Making Mistakes
My experience is that people hate making mistakes. Often when we make a mistake we make ourselves bad and feel less about ourselves. Certainly there are natural consequences that happen when we make mistakes and we need to be accountable for them but that doesn't make us bad or less than because we made a mistake.
The truth is that part of being human is that we make mistakes, sometimes even when we know better. I have found that it is essential to accept this fact and chose to see what we can learn from our mistakes so that we can do it better next time. When we make ourselves wrong or bad for making a mistake all we do is hurt ourselves and there is no benefit to that. If we chose to embrace the opportunity for learning when we make a mistake then we will feel more at peace with ourselves and give ourselves the space to learn from them so that we do better next time.
Two of my favorite sayings around making mistakes are "Practice make progress. There is no perfect" and "Good Judgment Comes from Experience, Experience comes from Bad Judgment."
My Thoughts on Emotions
I am regularly amazed at how our society values our intellect over our emotions. I love our intellectual ability but it is through our emotions that we experience the world, they are what makes life exciting. They are what creates our aliveness. Without them we would be like machines, life would be meaningless. That is with all emotions. We need the full spectrum of emotions to have life be meaningful. The main reason for having emotions is that it is our emotions, our passions, our pains, the pleasure of overcoming challenges that really make life rich and worthwhile.
Many people get the message that they are supposed to hold in or stifle certain emotions. When we stifle any emotion we stifle all of them because we cannot feel one without the others. When we shut off any emotion at any time we are literally shutting off our life energy, we are shutting off our passion, we’re deadening ourselves in a very profound way. Many people in this world live life feeling dead at one level or another and are so used to it they do not even realize it. And yet we are programmed in our society to deny our emotions and be rational human beings, when the truth is that we are not rational beings, we are emotional beings with more rational capability than the rest of the animal kingdom.Until we truly embrace this reality and embrace the value of the full spectrum of human emotions then we will be disempowered, out of our passion, and life will be less vibrant.
My Views on Medications
Medications are prescribed for a wide variety of mental health issues and in many cases they can be helpful. Many times, however, they are overused and just mask the problem instead of solving it. It can be like taking a pain killer after you have stepped on a thumbtack. You will not feel the pain anymore but the thumbtack will still be in your foot.
All pain and discomfort is a signal to us that something is wrong that we need to take care of. When we step on a thumbtack it is important for us to feel the pain so that we address it by taking the tack out and properly cleaning the wound. If we do not tend to the wound our foot will get infected. Emotional pain works the same way. If we are feeling sad, angry, nervous, depressed, anxious, etc. it is our body's way of telling us there is something wrong that we need to address. If we mask this discomfort with medications then the problem will remain and may fester overtime the same way a physical wound will.
It is true that it is appropriate and helpful to take pain medication for physical pain but we still need to tend to the wound as well. When dealing with psychological issues I believe medication is helpful when we are unable to function at a good quality of life because of our condition. It is also important to only take enough to make us able to function properly allowing us to still feel some of the discomfort so we know what needs to be addressed.
The Value of Forgiveness
Everyone at some time in their life feels hurt or betrayed by someone else. Sometimes these hurts are small and sometimes they are so painful we can feel as if we will never get over them. The final stage of the healing process is to come to a place of forgiveness. Many people think that forgiveness is for the perpetrator but it is really for the victim. When we are unable or unwilling to come to a place of forgiveness we carry a level of bitterness with us that negatively impacts our life.
One definition of forgiveness that I find helpful is "forgiveness is letting go of the hope of a different yesterday." I like this definition because it in no way makes what happened okay or acceptable. It simply says that I have come to terms with what was done to me and I am ready to move on with my life. Sometimes the definition can be stated that forgiveness is letting go of the hope of a different today, as our bitterness about how things are not like we want them to be today can be just as toxic as our bitterness about the past.
Moving on with our life is the most important thing after we have been victimized because every moment that we stay rapped up in the pain we remain at the mercy of the person that hurt us, and we remain as a victim. By stepping into forgiveness we are not giving up our power, we are reclaiming it by not allowing ourselves to be hurt and held back by what had happened.
Sometimes coming to forgiveness is extremely difficult especially when what was done to us was severe or done many times. When we are at a place where forgiveness seems impossible that is an indication that we need to do more healing work. We need to address the hurt and the anger around what has been done to us. Only after we have done this deep healing work will we be able to forgive and move on.
Dependent, Independent & Interdependent
One thing that is greatly valued in our society is that we as individuals be independent. No one wants to be dependent on others because then we are powerless over getting our needs met and we set ourselves up as victims. Being independent can sound good but it is unrealistic. None of us can be completely independent. We all need others help to be able to meet all of our needs.
The middle ground is what is called interdependent. Interdependent is how we are all designed to be. When we are interdependent I do something to help you and you do something to help me, or, the extended version, the person I help, helps someone else, who helps someone else, who helps me, etc. Because we all have different skills and abilities we can work together interdependently to achieve much more than any of us could independently.
Although when we are interdependent we are dependent on others, the difference between being interdependent and being dependent is that we are not dependent on any one person to meet our needs. If one person becomes unavailable to help us we can find someone else to meet those needs. This flexibility allows us to receive what we need without giving up our autonomy.
Definition of Right and Wrong; Good and Bad
Many people judge themselves by different standards of what is right and what is wrong; what is good and what is bad. Many people have learned that right and wrong is fairly fixed and what is right for one person is right for everyone and the same for what is wrong. In some cases this is true. Certainly murder is always wrong, rape is always wrong, love is always good. Most things in life, however, are not as clear cut and in fact what is right for one person may be totally wrong for another; what is right at one time may be wrong at another.
How then do we determine what is right and what is wrong. The first criteria I use is that if an action harms anyone then it is wrong. That does not necessarily mean that any behavior that does not harm someone is right. The second criteria I look at is does the behavior serve you or does it get in your way? Does it serve those around you? Or serve society as a whole? This second criteria is much less concrete and is subject to individual and situational judgment. Sometimes it can serve us but not those around us and be right, other times it can be wrong. Often the individuals moral values will make these differentiations clear and once again what is right for one person will not be right for another.
How do you know what is the right thing to do then? Well if you are clear that what you are doing is not harming anyone including yourself then you need to honor you particular set of values to decide what is right for you. As long as you are staying within your integrity with your values then you should regularly do what is right for you without harming anyone.
People Always Do the Best They Can
One thing I see on a regular basis is people who are being hard on themselves because they believe they could have done something better. They often believe this because they know they have the potential to have done better and feel they failed because they did not live up to their potential. Other times they have unrealistic expectations of what they are capable of or what was realistic to expect.
I believe that each of us does the best we can in each moment. In those moments that we do not live up to our potential it is because something is getting in our way. It may be that we are overtired or stressed in some way, or perhaps there was something distracting us. It can also be that although we know we are capable of doing something sometimes we have not learned some key skill that without it, meeting our goal is impossible.
In the end we each do the best we can in each moment and if for some reason we are not meeting our expectations it is because something prevented us from doing so. Instead of getting down on ourselves in these moments I believe the best course of action is to determine what prevented us from reaching our goal and addressing it to the best of our ability.
Grief As an Expression of Love
Back in the fall of 2000 a close friend of mine died of Leukemia. I was devastated by this loss and was consumed in grief. In discussing this grief with one of my mentors he told me that he had learned to love his grief. I remember looking at him and saying "How can anyone love this pain?" He responded that he knows the reason that he feels so much grief is because when he has lost someone that was very special to him and that the pain is an expression of how lucky he was to have that person in his life.
It took me a while to begin to understand what he had told me but over time I have begun to see my grief as expression of my love for what I have lost. The reason I feel so much pain is because I had loved so much. Since then when I have been in the pain of grief I have seen it as my expression of love for the person I have lost and I have found that what was once unbearable has become, although painful, a very sweet experience.
Couples Counseling Can Be Valuable Even if the Relationship Does Not Work Out
Many times when couples come to me for couples counseling they have waited until they are on the verge of breaking up and one or both of them are feeling a sense of hopelessness. It is not uncommon for one partner to feel so hopeless that they do not see the benefit of couples counseling.
What I know about relationships is that each person is 50% of the relationship. They are 50% of what is going well and 50% of what is going poorly. If you simply leave the relationship you are in without working on your 50% you are bound to bring your part to your next relationship. I have found that when couples actively engage in the couples counseling process they many times regain hope and are able to rebuild their relationship. In the cases when the relationship still does not work out they are able to bring healthier relationship skills into their next relationship increasing their chances of having the type of relationship they want.
Would You Rather be Right or Be In Love?
Often when I am working with couples they regularly spend a lot of time fighting over who is right and who is wrong. Often they are arguing about who did what when. Each partner has their own memory of past events and are frequently unwilling to give up their perception of what happened. When both partners are holding their ground in this fashion the conflicts seem to just go on and on, and the level of separation between them grows.
The above scenarios are no-win situations. Even if one partner is able to convince the other that they were right the second partner is made wrong and is left feeling defeated. I believe most people who are in love want to make their partner happy so that they can share in joy with each other but they do the opposite when they are attached to being right.
So the next time you find yourself in a fight with your partner, I invite you to ask yourself "Do I want to be right, or do I want to be in love?" Is it really that important that you have to defeat your partner and make them feel worse? It may be that your partner just needs to be heard or you need to be heard and what really occurred is not important. What is really important is how each of you reacted to what you each perceived.
How Are You Doing?
One of the most valuable things I have heard in my life is that how you are doing is not really important. What is really important is how you are doing with how you are doing. I have had times in my life when things were going well but I did not appreciate them and had negative feelings and reactions to what was going on for me. At other times I have been going through extremely difficult times and felt I was doing great.
For instance, a couple of years ago we lost a family pet and a week later a close friend of mine died suddenly. When people asked me how I was doing I told them I was doing great. My life was really wonderful at that point, and, I was going through a great deal of pain. Because I was okay with feeling that pain and didn't negatively judge it or fight it I was able to be happy in my life despite the very deep pain I was going through.
Knowing that we can be at choice about how we are doing with what we are experiencing can make life much easier and much more joyful.
Take Care of Yourself First So That You Can be There For Others
One common pattern I see people engaged in is that they regularly take care of other people around them before they take care of themselves. The end result is that they become worn out and unable to help anyone. This is similar to when you are on an airplane and the flight attendant tells you to put your own oxygen mask on before you assist your child. If you try to put your child's mask on first you may pass out before you get either mask on and then you cannot help either of you.
Another common thing that happens is that the giver feels disrespected because no one is helping them in the same selfless way they are helping others. What they often do not understand is that when they are making other people's needs more important than their own needs they are sending people the message that the givers needs are unimportant. Those around the giver pick up on this message and devalue the needs of the giver as well. While this certainly is not fair, the truth is that people treat us as we nonverbally communicate to them how we deserve to be treated. If we want to be treated with care and respect we need to treat ourselves that way.
|Copyright © 2014 Glenn Bigonet, M.A.|