Your Inner Goodness

An Inward Glimpse of Beauty

The ultimate goal of your therapy is self-acceptance and self-love. Despite your reasons for referral, you are likely seeking mental health counselling, emotional regulation support, psychotherapy, or mind-set coaching services to manage deep-seated feelings of insecurity. It is completely typical for adults to fear being alone. Problems with your romantic partners, spouse, children, extended family members, co-workers, or boss naturally diminish your feelings of safety. Core relationships at home, work and in your community constitute the person you have become. When one or more of these relationships is challenged, threatened, or radically changed, it will result in feelings of acute stress. Experiences of distress are common when the people you love and respect change.

During periods of conflict and miscommunication, your level of stress is probably running very high. It is important to do your best to maintain your composure and calm. It is really not possible to solve problems when everyone’s emotions are reactive, combative, and fighting to be right. Problems are best solved when people can think clearly about the situation, and feel included in generating possible solutions. A healthy retreat from conflict-ridden and angry situations or people is always an option when remaining present in a heated argument, fight, or angry disagreement triggers an episode of acute stress response in you. It is a self-preserving gesture to run for cover.

Reaching out for support and building healthy alliances with trusted and reliable people in your life is a great way to reduce feelings of stress and upset over situations that you assess are unfair and unjust. Each person has an inner compass that helps you in your daily decision-making. As you learn to listen to your own inner core, you will find that it does speak to you. Your feelings and emotions about particular experiences, situations, and people are the primary ways that your inner core begins to speak to you. When you feel that something is wrong at home, work, or in the community, you do need to listen.

All feelings are healthy and natural, and together in the vast landscape of emotions constitute what it feels to be human. The truth is that we humans all feel the same range of emotions. Where our lives are uncomplicated by an over-reliance on substances that numb your feelings, human emotions can be very powerfully positive and negative. Some feelings may frighten or scare you. Other emotions may result in periods of euphoria and bliss. Once you begin to identify and listen to what your feelings may be telling you, your life will change. It is never a recommended idea to make radical change without first stabilizing your emotional reaction to events or people. If you continue to struggle with feelings of anger, then you may require the support of a mental health clinician trained to co-regulate your emotions or coach to gain clarity on next steps.

You will begin to build healthy and protective boundaries around this precious inner core that is generally referred to as the “self”. You may also discover that your own behaviour has been horrendous, and that you have a part in the conflict in your life at home, work, or in your community. The unexpected gift of building personal boundaries is that you will recognize your own accountability in problems, and where motivated, work to correct things with the people you love.

Trust in your own goodness. Accept that you do know what is best for your own life.

Lisa Romano-Dwyer, BSc, MSW, PhD, RSW

Resolved to be true in marriage in 2022

I will remain true in 2022

As you herald in a New Year, like in past years, you may find yourself in a reflective mood taking stock of the way this year has unfolded for you & your family. There may be items that cause you to wonder, “how did this happen”? or “how did I end up here”, or better yet, “what steps or pathway did I veer down that misdirected my personal ambitions and family goals”?

January is an excellent time to re-think last year, and what you might like to improve, amend, change, or repair in 2022. For many couples, Covid has presented unique, yet common problems. Increased experiences of “cabin-fever” caused by being stuck in one physical place or situation cut-off from most people. Even where couples and families with children have been together, somewhat isolated from extended family members, friends, and the community at large, Covid has been trying. Many couples report a decline in sexual intimacy and an increase in arguments and fighting.

Most people enjoy the company of others and experience an increased sense of health and wellness, self-esteem, and confidence when securely connected to a social group that extends beyond your immediate family. In fact a healthy network of family and friends, or “social support networks” is often associated with better health outcomes on personal and community levels. Where the draw to spend more time with your social support network is greater than your desire to be with your spouse or family at home, you may be at risk for future problems.

Marital stress is often cited as the context in which affairs arise. It is true that some couples enter marriage with a different set of values pertaining to fidelity and monogamy. Generally, discussed more openly before taking steps to tying the knot, there are some individuals who withhold their personal views despite participating in courses or retreats offered before the wedding day. Healthy relationships usually start with a great deal of sexual passion for one another that is all-consuming and preferably exclusive. In my experience as a mostly heterosexual couple’s counsellor, there is little agreement around the timing that a relationship began. Women typically consider the moment they are first introduced to their partner as the beginning point of a special relationship. Whereas for men, a relationship begins when there has been a decision made about it.

Many men and women continue to date different people before deciding to become exclusively faithful with one partner. This may even be true after deciding to live with one another before marriage. The importance of speaking openly during these early relationship stages cannot be underestimated. Relationships that begin on a less exclusive basis can create a sense of insecurity that may haunt your marriage for years, if feelings and events go unresolved.

More and more young people are opting out of traditional marriages officiated by clergy, ordained religious ministers or leaders from different sects. Certainly, with the marital mess that couples from the post-war era witnessed, it is a wonder that any young brave the traditional institution of marriage at all. Many children and grandchildren of divorced parents experienced the collateral damage caused by high conflict divorce. Many young adults today carry emotional scars directly related to intergenerational conflict and familial division caused by marriages that fail. There does appear to be a definite divide between couples who continue to view marriage as a sacred covenant blessed by God as well as a civil and legal contract; and those who have expunged the role of God and traditional religion from marriage altogether. It seems that we have witnessed a modern reformation of sorts, that opened up and normalized the institution of civil marriage to all couples, while leaving traditional religious options to marriage unscathed.

The next several generations will reveal whether and what this reformation will have on future societies, the health of families, and specifically the ideal of marriage as a lifelong promise with your one love. Many people have attacked this notion of an exclusive lifetime lover, even where statistics tend to show that most couples do stay together & faithful to one another for life. An active, happy, and healthy sex life and deep friendship with one partner for life is a fantastic option that is real, even today. Here are some simple strategies that will help you and your love remain deeply connected for life:

  1. Reserve adult time for one another for at least 15 minutes at the beginning or end of each day.
  2. Keep your bedroom exclusively your own, & leave your kids in their own beds! The family bed as an exception works through periods of intense illness, but for any period longer than a few days, this is likely to cause trouble in your marriage.
  3. Practice date nights weekly or bi-weekly throughout your marriage.
  4. Decide together what being on a date with one another means to you. What do you like doing best with each other, and are both of you able to enjoy some activities in common.
  5. Do something special and unexpected from time to time. This is really important in the early years before children, and may become less important as your family ages together. Filling up your partner’s car with gas, or picking up your spouse’s vitamins without being asked, demonstrates that you are paying attention and that you care.
  6. Be happy & playful in bed. Be bold and honest about what you want and need sexually from each other, and go for it. Too many people begin affairs due to sexual frustration, or lingering anger over unimportant day to day stuff.
  7. Let go of the little things and do not withhold sex as a form of punishment. If you are angry, go for individual counselling to process and resolve your feelings.
  8. Lighten-Up! Talk about how you feel and learn to laugh at yourself. Try not to take yourself or your partner so seriously, it’s demanding, frustrating, annoying, and simply not that much fun!
  9. Talk to one another freely, about everything and without any hesitation.

Couples commonly seek counselling support due to a lack of sex with one another, increased fighting, feelings of neglect, depressed mood or generalized unhappiness. Some couples engage in counselling after discovery of an affair, but this is less common than the reasons cited above. Where you feel that your relationship requires more help, then reach out to a couple’s counsellor and regain the joy you both deserve.

Dr. Lisa Romano-Dwyer, Owner

O Holy Night

“Oh night when Christ was born”

As we draw closer to celebrating Christmas 2021, the world finds itself challenged by another Covid variant that is highly transmissible and increasingly concerning. Local and global responses urge individuals to stay home, to restrict or cancel the number of holiday social gatherings or parties, and to implement strategies that reduce or close down larger scale events held at sporting or entertainment venues.

Your initial reaction is probably similar to most of us with sentiments like, “here we go again”. Some of you may find yourself feeling quite depressed, overwhelmed and lonely. Life had just begun to feel normal with restaurants, businesses, gyms, and workplaces slowly reopening again. You, like me may have ventured back into the world fully vaccinated and strictly Covid-protocol compliant. So, the view that anything terribly bad could happen had subsided, and a certain degree of confidence had probably been restored. Prior to the Omicron variant, the general medical opinion supported the view that people slowly return to life as we knew it before Covid. At that time, it was a healthy decision to re-engage with family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, and congregants.

Within a matter of weeks, health officials issued recommendations for increased restrictions as case numbers rose. So, once again, you find yourself re-evaluating your plans for the holidays. After months of relative isolation from family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues, you are probably more adept at spending quiet time on your own or with those loved ones in your home or “social bubble”. This semi-lockdown period before Christmas offers an opportunity to more deeply reflect on what many of us believe was a holy night, the very first Christmas in Bethlehem, and the birth of Jesus more than 2,000 years ago.

The concept of holy is an interesting one. Grammatically used most often as an adjective, the notion of holiness describes evidence of the presence of God. Diverse monotheistic faith-based groups have many ways of expressing the holiness of people, events, artifacts, places of worship, altars, or relics. Some groups believe that one can become holy, while other faith groups believe in the sanctity of human life at the point of conception, thereby validating the presence of God in each unique living person, and the role of God’s grace in making all things holy. Still other spiritual groups that resound of early paganism or animism extend the idea of the divine to other life forms, inanimate objects, forces of nature, and to mother earth herself.

Adopting a very broad scholarly perspective on the philosophy of scientific knowledge, since the Age of Reason, enlightenment, or Cartesianism in the late Renaissance, it seems that ontological perspectives have been slowly replaced by epistemological approaches that centralize less on knowing the world based on the properties of things and the relations between them; and more on knowing the world through methods of exploration that test the reliability of facts, ideas, opinions, or theories. In ontology, real, finite, accurate, valid, and reliable knowledge does exist. It results in knowledge based on scientific findings that people can have faith in and provides the foundation for further study. In epistemology, all knowledge can be explored, tested, and bent in ways that questions the validity of any scientific finding as truth. Knowledge is always doubt-ridden, precarious, and uncertain, also providing room for further scientific study. So, the issue is not so much what we do or do not know about science, it is whether or not we can believe in it.

As you reflect on the holy night of Christmas, whether on your own, with family, friends, or in a community of believers, you, like thousands of Christians before you, may find that until he appeared your soul felt its worth. Despite all restrictions and where you might find yourself to be, we are all invited on this holy night to celebrate the magnificence of the birth of a child, heralded by a bright star and angels, that the Son of God was to be born in a lowly manger in turbulent times.

Merry Christmas.

Dr. Lisa Romano-Dwyer BSc, MSW, PhD, RSW