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What is the Best Way to Begin Expressing Emotions?

June 19, 2021

In the last article in this series on emotional regulation, we talk about the different means and mechanisms by which people learn to actively suppress their emotions. The goal of understanding and becoming increasingly aware of this is to help set the stage for healthy emotional expression and release. In this article, we will discuss some fairly simple guidelines and suggestions for expressing feelings. Most people are able to quickly realize how they are suppressing, realize they probably need to stop suppressing, but fear stopping. They fear if they do express their feelings a great dam will burst open and they will not be able to stop the outpouring of emotion. There is some potential truth in this fear. Due to ongoing suppression, people stockpile feelings and they build up like steam in a pressure cooker. We cannot guarantee you that at times you will not lose control over some of your feelings and feel overwhelmed. We can assure you that you will not die or “go crazy”. We can also assure you that over time that pressure will begin to lessen and dissipate, which will make it easier to regain healthy control over your feelings. With some coaching, hopefully, we can teach you how to prevent the dam from bursting open and read more

June 16, 2021

In the last article in this series on emotional regulation, we talked about the natural order of emotions. Operating properly, children and adults alike, experience an emotion internally, and then we express the emotion outwardly. We also discussed a number of factors that cause many boys and men to avoid expressing their feelings. In this article, we will discuss how it is people hinder and interfere with the natural desire to express feelings. Given all the cultural influences on boys and men around emotional expression, many guys come to realize they are only socially allowed, or encouraged, the expression of two feelings: happy and angry. Guys are permitted to joke around and laugh, and they can express and display anger without any negative disapproval (unless the anger becomes violent). This is about it for socially sanctioned emotional expression. As a result, most guys begin overcontrolling and suppressing their other feelings like guilt, sadness, fear, hurt, etc. Unfortunately, for most guys they begin the act of suppression at a very young age; often between 6-10 years old when they start receiving negative messages for the expression of more vulnerable emotions. At this tender age this requires some active and conscious effort to keep these feelings from coming out. Over time, with enough time and practice, routine suppression of feelings becomes second nature and ev read more

May 22, 2021

For generations, women have complained about the men in their lives being stoic, flat, unemotional, and even like robots. Whether it is their father, boss, or significant other, many women find it nearly impossible to get an emotional response to the question, “How are you feeling?” Keep in mind this phenomenon is not exclusive to men, as we certainly see some women end up in this place, just as we know there are some men who are very capable of being emotional. In clinical practice, it seems about 80% of men struggle with emotions and about 10-15% of women struggle with expressing emotions. In this three-part series, we will discuss how so many men come to be so emotionally restrained. In the second article, we will discuss how it is that men are able to interfere and hamper their own emotional expression. In the final article, we will discuss the path back to emotionality for our men.

The Two Part Emotional Process

When it comes to feelings, there are broadly speaking, two main components to the process: the experience and the expression. We see many men who believe they are quite in touch with their internal experience of emotions in that they can label and identify what they are feeling on the inside. Some guys are confused about what they are experiencing, and others rarely feel anything on the inside. Where most guys fall down is on the expression side of the read more

March 14, 2021

Many people use the terms guilt and shame interchangeably and are not even really sure what makes them different. There are important differences; especially in terms of the impact they can have on you and how you address them. Let’s look at what makes guilt and shame differently. Guilt: Is an emotion that occurs as an automatic reaction to acting against one’s own morals and values. For example, if Bill values honesty, but he goes home and lies to his wife, he will suddenly feel guilty. Interestingly, the purpose of function of guilt is that it is designed to get you back in alignment with your values, i.e., to be a good person. In our example above, Bill’s guilt will hopefully propel him to get honest with his wife, or simply stop lying to her in the future. Shame: Is an emotion that occurs in reaction to a perception of self-defectiveness. For instance, Beth might believe there is something bad or wrong with her when a guy didn’t call her for a second date. In many instances shame causes people to hide parts of themselves that they believe are self-defective from others in an effort to avoid humiliation. Most people who do this only allow others to see and interact with the persona they portray, because of the fear that if they were genuine and real, they would be humiliated in front of others. The primary diff read more

January 30, 2021

What Are the Facts About Domestic Abuse?

Recent studies and statistics reveal that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. This can include shoving, pushing, slapping as well as more severe forms of violence. Roughly 10 million people are impacted by domestic abuse each year. Sadly, 1500 deaths occur each year from domestic violence. In sum, domestic abuse is all too common. Abuse and violence can take lots of different forms. Most people are aware of the physical forms of abuse but are often less knowledgeable about the other forms of abuse. Abuse can be emotional, psychological, sexual, economic, and occur in the form of neglect. Domestic abuse occurs across all races, socioeconomics, education levels, religious groups, genders, and sexual orientations. Nurses are typically the first people to encounter domestic abuse, but sadly most perpetrators and victims do not seek out help.

What Motivates and Drives Domestic Abuse?

Most people who abuse others have an intense need to control. Many perpetrators struggle with jealousy issues, low self-esteem, and feelings of inferiority. Many simply cannot regulate their emotions very well, in particular feelings of anger. Unfortunately, for some, it is learned behavior as they grew up in homes with domestic a read more

January 3, 2021

Divorce Facts and Findings

Choosing to get a divorce is one of the biggest and most personal decisions a person can make. It’s a decision that has sweeping implications for everyone involved. It is almost always an upsetting event that leaves people feeling great disappointment and grieving the loss of hopes and dreams. Compounding these losses are people left trying to adjust and cope with the stressors that affect us legally, financially, emotionally, socially, as a parent, all the way down to logistically in terms of living space. For many this is perceived as the lesser of two evils as relationships have become too acrimonious, painful, and toxic. Most Americans believe that it is better to get a divorce than be in an unhappy and unproductive marriage. Overall, the divorce rate is declining, having gone from 50% of all marriages ending in divorce to only 39% recently. Millennials between the ages of 25-39, now comprise 60% of all divorces. Although age 30 is still the average age of divorce, the divorce rate in people over 50 has doubled since 1990 likely giving way to changes in former conservative beliefs in an era that has become more accepting of divorce. Next, let us look at the primary factors that cause divorce.

Causes of Divorce

There are countless reasons and cau read more

November 28, 2020

What is Self-Injury?

Self-injurious behavior (SIB) is self-harm, self-mutilation, or the deliberate act of causing pain or injury to your own body. Self-injurious behavior usually takes the form of cutting or burning, but can include scratching headbanging, or any other form of injury.

Who does Self-Injury?

Self-injurious behavior can occur at any age and any demographic; however, it is most common in teenagers and young adults. One recent study found that 6-14% of adolescent boys and 17-30% of adolescent girls engage in self-injury at some point. Most adults who engage in self-injury either have mental health issues or a history of self-injurious behavior.

Why People Injure Themselves?

Contrary to common perception, self-injurious behavior is rarely about suicidal ideation or intentions. Interestingly, it is typically about pent up and intense emotions that the person is struggling to deal with. Many people stumble upon this strategy to escape and avoid difficult emotions. When people engage in self-injury, pain receptors are activated and the brain goes into emergency mode to identify and alleviate the source of pain and injury. In the process, the brain prioritizes the physical pain from the self-injury and pushes all the emotions to the side in order to deal with the more immediate crisis at hand – the pain. In short, the infliction of physical read more

November 14, 2020

The experience of loss is an unfortunate reality that none of us can escape during our time here. Dealing with losses is one of the more difficult stressors that we all face at various times in our lives. Having an understanding of the process and ways to navigate this process can make it more tolerable. Grief and loss are not specific to the people we care about, nor does it mean the death of someone. Although someone passing away may be the most commonly associated with grief and loss, it also pertains to the break up of a relationship, loss of a job, end of a marriage, loss of abilities, loss of dreams, or treasured object to name just a few. The common denominator with loss is the attachment and strong feelings we possess about whatever it is we lost. Whether its familiarity, nostalgia, compassion, concern, or love, it is these feelings that bring about pain and sadness when we experience a loss.

Stages of Grief

Many people are familiar with the stages of grief which are denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance. Many people experience these stages and it can be helpful to be familiar with them as it allows us to know what to anticipate and expect when dealing with grief and loss. It should be noted that not everyone goes through all of these stages and they often do not occur in a linear fashion. Often, we see people cycle through anger and sadness repeat read more

September 19, 2020

In the 1950s two notable pieces of research, John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, worked together to study babies, attachment, and separation. They worked with countless parents and caregivers and their infant children. They studied the bond between parent and child but were most fascinated by the child’s bond, or attachment, to the parent. This emotional bond also represents the manner and way in which the infant gets its needs met from the parent. What is most interesting about their studies is the use of separation. In the studies, the infant was left alone briefly and they monitored both the reaction of the infant when the parent left, but also the reaction when the parent returned. This was the most telling indicator of the type of attachment style the infant had with its caregiver. They concluded there are 4 main attachments styles that can develop out of these early interactions. In fact, much of their research suggested that the particular type of attachment was pretty well-formed by the end of the first year of life and was quite enduring thereafter and impact our relationships as adults. Let take a look at the four attachment styles.

Secure Attachment

Nearly 55-60% of children have a secure attachment with their parents. These children are eager to see their parents, are readily comforted by the parent and tend to play and interact regularly with their parents. read more

August 8, 2020

Living life, paying bills, raising kids, navigating work issues, and so much more are the things that make our lives challenging and stressful. When faced with all this, it becomes clear why we need a break from time to time. Taking time to indulge our hobbies or activities to reduce our stress is wonderful, but also requires a chunk of time that we may only be able to carve out once a day or even less. The drudgery of life would become virtually unbearable if we didn’t have some quick fixes along the way. One of the best and easiest is laughter. Our amazing brains have evolved to see and appreciate all the ironies, foibles, and follies that make us human. Whether it is recognizing the absurd, appreciating the silly, or enjoying the hyperbole; these are the things that bring smiles to our faces and cause us to expel joyous laughter. It’s important that we do not take ourselves or life too seriously. We need only to watch a few old episodes of Star Trek and watch Mr. Spock to see how sterile, bland, and joyless life is when we are too pragmatic and logical. Laughter is part of what brings color and brightness to our life experiences. Laughter also has countless positive health benefits. Laughter has been found to boost our immune system, relax muscles, improve circulation, and prevent heart disease. Laughter is also great for our mental health in that it can reduce anxiety, re read more