Blog

Authentic Dating: 5 Ways to Build Trust

Written by Stacy Ingraham, MSEd., LPCC-S
Individual & Couples Gestalt Therapist

When most people create a list of “must haves” in a relationship partner, “trustworthy” is typically at the top. Important to note is that earning trust and trusting someone takes time. Here are a few ways trust is built in a relationship.

    1. If you want to start a relationship out on the right foot, be honest and open from the start. Building trust begins the moment you introduce yourself – online and in person.
    2. Put your heart out there, little by little. Each time we share with another person, we give them the opportunity to care about, support, and know us. Of course, this comes with the risk of getting hurt or being rejected. By testing how the other person responds or reacts to our vulnerabilities, we can learn whether they can be trusted with deeper, more intimate parts of ourselves. For more on vulnerability, check out Brené Brown’s TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability.
    3. Working through tough moments together. Lean into conflict. Do not avoid it! The purpose of conflict in relationships is to protect the closeness. While bringing up something difficult can be uncomfortable and anxiety provoking, it’s another opportunity to build trust. Sharing concerns is another way of communicating “I care enough about me, you, and our relationship to try to reconnect and strengthen our bond, instead of build resentment, feel irritated, and vent to other people about you.”
    4. When you apologize, mean it and work toward change.
    5. Stay true to your word. When you say you’re going to do something, follow through. If you say you’re going to pick him up at 6:00, arrive by 6:00. If you say you’re going to pick up milk on the way home, pick up the milk. If something changes, communicate this with your person as soon as possible. Trust erodes when we say we’ll do something, and we lack follow-through.

If you find that you struggle with any of these ideas, a therapist can help if you are open and honest. If you care about your relationship and a foundation of trust was not built or has been shaken, seek guidance from a qualified couple’s therapist.

The Family Container

Family Container Worksheet.jpg

 

So often we issue a series of rules and regulations to even our very young children.

“Don’t jump on the couch.”

“We don’t hit.”

“Listen the first time.”

“Stay in your seat while eating dinner.”

“Don’t tease!”

Children need to understand the boundaries of the home to successfully operate within the rules. It’s not important, actually, that they simply don’t jump on the couch or listen the first time. It’s important that they understand the concept of being respectful and that both of those behaviors run afoul of that.

Likewise, if the child or teenager can understand the principle of operating with gratitude we don’t need to have several rules about nagging, whining, or leaving our toys scattered about the house. We simply need to focus on the concept of gratitude and how all of those behaviors are contradictory.

With a clearly defined container, everyone in the family can view expectations through a wider lens and learn to weigh their decisions and actions against the potential natural consequences of the way they interact with the family and their environment.  When children truly understand what is expected of them, parents are relieved from the fatiguing practice of constant dialog over the rules.

The beauty of the container, is that as the child grows, the bounds of the container grow with the child and can easily be applied to more mature arenas such as technology, driving, dating relationships and entrance into young adulthood.

When children have clearly defined rules, boundaries and expectations, they feel safer to engage in the natural and developmentally appropriate boundary testing behavior that is essential in the struggle to grow up.

 

A Deeper Kind of Healing: How Getting Under the Surface Helps us Break Down our Walls

Written by Child & Family Therapist Holly Gilbert, MA, LPC

This Spring, I performed the dreaded task of weeding my garden. With my gloves on, I dug into the dirt, determined to pull the entire root up from the ground. There were several times that I was unsuccessful and would only grab the stem. I noticed that after some time, the weeds that were not fully uprooted grew back. This got me thinking about superficial care—when we only treat the surface layer of issues and expect long term results: when we confuse convenience with a cure.

I realized that in most areas of our life we are encouraged to address underlying issues; however, when it comes to mental health, we simply focus on symptoms. Why is this? If we knew we had a termite problem, we wouldn’t solely patch the holes. And we certainly would never prescribed surface level treatment to our landscaping. Yet, when it comes to our mental health we often are seeking to treat issues with skills, techniques, and easy fixes.  So, what exactly is the price we pay for this surface level approach?

  • We fail to go deeper into the therapeutic process and, therefore, focus on the breadth of solutions rather than the depth of the hurt. Superficial care is often more concerned with the outcome than the onset of issues. However, in Gestalt therapy, we recognize that instrumental change can only take place when personal insight is met with an awareness to present experiences.

For example, let’s say Mark comes into my office and shares that he is struggling with social anxiety. During our interactions, I notice that he breaks eye contact whenever I initiate a conversation. I begin to gently point this out to him in order to facilitate some awareness. Eventually, we explore his upbringing and the more volatile messages he heard in his home. As a result of his upbringing, he learned that to withdraw from social interactions—through means such as avoiding eye contact—was self-protective.

This past exploration deeply informed Mark’s present experience and will help produce more sustainable, long-term change. From the onset, I could have prescribed skills to address Mark’s anxiety or improve his level of intimacy. However, I believe that when we get to a person’s “truth” three things happen: 1) they develop a deeper layer of awareness to their hurt; 2) they encounter a greater sense of power over their experiences; and 3) they experience an increased level of investment in their change process. All of these things lead to a more sustainable and deeper process of healing.

  • We begin to view the person as a problem to be fixed. In our modern era, therapy has become less about the root and more about the results and this is detrimental to both how we view the healing process as well as how we view the person in general. In a conversation I had earlier this week about superficial care, I came to the realization that when we assume that people can be “fixed” through a series of tools, there is a level of dehumanization that takes place. To an individual who has already experienced a loss of power—whether through trauma, anxiety, or “normal” life transitions—this is unhelpful and can be detrimental to their sense of self.

In Gestalt therapy, we focus on the entire person being present to themselves as well as the therapeutic relationship and encounter. We expect and encourage the person to grow deeper in their awareness and rely on them to share their insight into their experience. I firmly believe that if therapy is not used as a platform that strengthens a person’s sense of empowerment rather than diminish it, we will not only impact their sense of self but also compromise their ability to encounter past, present and future experiences.

As someone who has experienced both the superficial care as well as the long term, sustainable care that promotes awareness, insight, and investment in the change process, I advocate for the latter. It is a privilege to spend my days sitting across from young men and women who have chosen to dive deeper than their surface level issues and invest in a longer but more sustainable therapeutic process. After all, don’t we owe it to ourselves to benefit from the same depth of healing that we offer our wood floors and our garden beds?

Are you already counting down the days until school is back in session?

In a recent NPR profile, author Katherine Reynolds Lewis discusses what she calls a “crisis of self-regulation,” in her new parenting book, The Good News About Bad Behavior. Click through to read Ms. Reynolds compelling case for chores, unstructured play, the importance of risks and relevant consequences.

Why Children Aren’t Behaving And, What You Can Do About It

 

The Friendship Workshop

Led by Holly Gilbert, LPC and Libby Steele, LPC this workshop promotes a culture of inclusiveness, kindness, acceptance and respect. It will be offered in both July and August in partnership with Piccadilly Play Café so your little ones are ready for the playground when school starts.  Stay tuned for more information on the Parenting Workshop with Matt Dunatchik, LPCC and Libby Steele, LPC.

Friendship Workshop

Please click here to register through Piccadilly Play Café