Many people give themselves permission to be mean to themselves.

Suppose you were walking along in a park and you heard one person saying things like:
“Who do you think you are?”
“Nobody likes you.”
“Go ahead and try it! You’re going to fall flat on your face.”
“You’re fat.”
“You suck!”

Toxic stuff, huh? You would probably be appalled if you heard another person say these things out loud to another person. You might even say something, “Hey! Leave him alone!” Most likely the hateful words would leave an impression on you – one that might last throughout the day. You might ask yourself, “How could someone be so cruel?”

If you are like most people you think things like this to yourself often. Why? Well, there are several reasons which I will discuss at length in the Happiness 101 class on June 7th called Befriending Your Inner Critic. Not only will you learn to identify your inner critic but instead of shutting it off, you can actually make it your ally! For now, I ask you to just be aware of this voice that says these awful things to you. What does it sound like? When is it most likely to spew its negativity? Though it sounds like the voice of authority, it is not in charge. YOU are. On June 7th, I will help you regain control over this important part of your life.

In the meantime, use the formula we use in Happiness 101:
Be mindful – be aware of the voice of the inner critic
Explore your options. What choices take you further away from happiness and which bring you closer? You can let the inner critic spew on or you can DO something about it.
Make your choice.
Implement your choice.

My hope is that you would put a stop to the internal abuse. One suggest is you can think or say “Stop!” – the same thing you might do in the scenario above.

Please. Be kind to yourself – at LEAST as kind as you would be to a stranger.

Frank Clayton
Licensed Professional Counselor

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In my experience as as a counselor, I find poor communication to be the culprit in most marital strife. As part of that miscommunication is: the signal sent is not necessarily the signal received. One of the most damaging of these miscommunications is a distortion in the language of love. Take a moment to consider:
How do you really feel love? Think of times where someone has done or said something that REALLY made you feel loved.
Conversely, how do you express love? If you want someone to know that you really love them, what do you do or say?
Suppose the way you say “I love you” is via gifts but the way your mate feels “I love you” is by spending quality time? Then your gift may not be appreciated and worse yet your mate may not feel loved. Maybe said mate is trying to tell you “I love you” by asking to spend time together, but you are too busy earning the money to buy the gift which you hope will let them know how much you really love them. In the meantime your mate may feel unloved.

The 5 Love Languages


In his book, The 5 Love Languages , Gary Chapman does an excellent job of explaining the five different languages of love: words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, receiving gifts and acts of service. On his website (www.5lovelanguages.com) you can take a brief test to find out what your primary love language(s) is/are. You can find his book at the local Borders or Barnes & Noble. I recommend reading it together. You can (literally) get on the same page, Kindle and rekindle the flames of love in no time.

Frank Clayton
Licensed Professional Counselor

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A must for harnessing your Happiness is taking responsibility for it.

In Happiness 101, we have four rules: no blame, no shame, no guilt and no complaining. These were dubbed the Happiness Robbers but Marci Shimoff in her book Happy For No Reason. The earmark of a Happiness Robber is avoidance of full responsibility, opting instead to be mired down in victim hood. It is important to clarify that there IS a time and place for blame, shame, guilt and complaining. But when they are used as excuses to avoid taking responsibility for your life and your Happiness. This can be easier said than done. On the one hand, taking full responsibility means that you have the power to make changes and that can feel VERY empowering. However, this also means that IT’S ALL ON YOU to make choices that will make you happy. Let’s face it: it is easier and more convenient to blame our spouse, our boss or our friends for our predicament. The price we pay, however, is remaining stuck and feeling helpless – a victim.

You might say “Oh, but I REALLY do not have control over this situation. I am stuck and there is nothing I can do.” The answer is the serenity prayer. If you have never heard it, I offer it to you now:
“Grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” So, if I am blaming my unhappiness on the recession, then I am powerless to be happy because the economic state of the nation is beyond my control. However, I AM in control of my personal finances and I am in control of my attitude. Sometimes what we have control over may be in question. Do you have control over your spouse, your boss or your friends? No. Our sphere of direct control is really quite limited. Of course we can help or hinder various processes through our behavior, but do we honestly have control? For instance, I can work hard, always show up for work and laugh at all of the bosses jokes, but does that mean I will get the promotion? Maybe but maybe not. We can do things in hopes of achieving a certain result, but many times that hoped-for result is out of our control.
I know. This can be very challenging to think about how limited your control really is. However, in my practice as a therapist, I see people frustrated and feeling depressed because they are attempting to control something that is not within their control while ignoring the things that truly ARE within their control (Disclaimer: I am not thinking of anyone specific as I write this – promise!). If we take control of our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors, WE control our happiness.
A wonderful example of this is Nelson Mandela (see recent movie review of Invictus). Here was a man wrongly imprisoned for 27 years. I don’t think anyone would have blamed him for being bitter and/or hateful. But Nelson Mandela refused to be a victim of his oppressors. He recognized that though he was imprisoned that he was the master of his fate, the captain of his soul.
Now that you have this knowledge, I challenge you to take full responsibility for your life -AND your Happiness.
~Frank Clayton, Licensed Professional Counselor

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Once upon a time, I worked at a residential treatment center (RTC) for teens. When parents reached a point where they did not know what to do with their child and felt that their kid was in danger of hurting themselves or others (through a variety of means) – in other words they were at their wit’s end – they would send them to such a facility. It was here that I saw first hand what a fundamental shift can happen when one focuses on the positive rather than the negative. At this RTC there were four different houses. One of the houses was struggling significantly. The staff were burned out and there was a great deal of acting out behavior by the youth. A nurse there said she could feel the negative vibe emanating from the house. Something had to be done. The powers that be decided to rotate the staff so that the teens had a fresh new team to work with. Before day one, the staff huddled and decided that they were going to do two things: enforce the rules and accentuate the positive. In other words they were going to focus on what was RIGHT instead of what was wrong. Three days later, the aforementioned nurse said when she walked into the house, she knew a significant change had occurred. The students were more than just compliant they were happy, courteous and kind to one another. They did their chores with little complaint and began complimenting one another as staff had done to them. Not surprisingly, the staff was happier too. From this movement sprouted the Positive Difference Program. When staff saw students going above and beyond, they gave them a Positive Difference card, describing how they had made a positive difference. Attached was a ticket that allowed them to participate in a drawing for prizes at the end of the week. Though initially cards were only given from staff to students, it was not long before students wanted to give them to each other. It went so far that students wanted to give them back to staff and to their parents. As you may imagine that within a month’s time, the house had gone from one with a bad reputation to being the house everyone (staff and students alike) wanted to be.
This idea was started by one person. One person that decided to focus not on what was wrong, but what was right; to compliment rather than criticize. It radiated out and changed their focus. It changed their entire way of thinking and permanently changed lives.
What do YOU focus on? What impact do you make? Because whether you realize it or not, you already impact others. Is it a positive one or a negative one (or something in between)?
YOU can make a positive difference – in your immediate family, your extended family, your work, your friends your church and beyond – even strangers on the street.
Be aware. Decide. Act.

Frank Clayton
Licensed Professional Counselor

P.S. Attached is a short movie by Kurt Kuenne showing how one person can make a big difference

Validation

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Assertive Stance

Assertiveness got a somewhat bad rap in the 70s. What they were calling assertiveness in the workshops of that decade leaned heavily toward aggressiveness. The goal of true assertiveness is not to assert your will upon another – which is more the “I win, you lose” scenario (aggression). Emmons and Alberti do a wonderful job of explaining this important distinction in their book, Your Perfect Right. This is my go-to book when addressing the issue of assertiveness in therapy. They give many examples to help you look for the win/win solution and give clear language to help you speak and behave in a way that feels respectful not only to the other person but yourself. In Happiness 101, I talk a lot about choice and how every day in big and small ways, you can make choices that take you either closer or further away from Happiness. Of the four styles of conflict communication, assertiveness is the only option in which everyone wins. A collaborative, respectful approach is obviously the choice most conducive to Happiness. Join us on Monday, March 29th at 7pm for the free class Happiness 101 where I will go into more depth, giving you tools you can use right away to improve your relationships and, yes, be Happier.
Frank Clayton
Licensed Professional Counselor

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In my previous post (Be Right or Be Happy) I invited you to join us in the ranks of optimists. Well, last night I found out, I am not an optimist. In fact, I am “severely hopeless” according to the Optimism Test found at www.authentichappiness.com It might be tempting to dismiss the findings but actually I think it’s accurate. This could be one of the more important findings of my own path to be happier. You see, Martin Seligman purports that optimism can be dissected into two parts permanence and pervasiveness. So, when things go wrong, do you say something like “I’m so stupid!”? Can you see the pervasiveness and permanence of this label you have slapped onto yourself? In contrast, “Sometimes I do really stupid things” leaves room for hope. Okay, you made a mistake but are not damning yourself for all eternity. The latter statement also gives wiggle room that sometimes you do things right too – so it is not pervasive. These differences are subtle but significant. So, in taking the test and honestly looking at how I respond to such boo-boos, I am quick to judge myself harshly. This is GREAT! I feel the way I imagine kids who have struggled with a learning disorder might feel when being diagnosed: on the one hand, it’s difficult to be diagnosed as “severely pessimistic” but now I can DO something about it! Now I can make a conscious choice to start watching my self-talk and (out loud) language more carefully for words like “never”, “always” and labels. I can replace these words with more optimistic choices such as “sometimes” or “maybe”. While I’m dissecting optimism and pessimism, I offer one last tidbit courtesy of Sonja Lyubomirsky. In her book, The How of Happiness, she adds one other dimension to the mix: internal vs. external. Do you blame yourself or external circumstances? Let’s look at two examples:
You lost a race. Your response:
A. I’m a loser
B. It wasn’t my day
In the first example, it is permanent, pervasive and internal. The second statement is temporary, transient and external.
Are you a true optimist? Take the challenge: go to www.authentichappiness.com

A final thought about your words, care of that prolific writer, Anonymous:
“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Frank Clayton
Licensed Professional Counselor
Aspiring Optimist

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During the discussion about forgiveness on the October 6th Happiness 101 class, it became apparent that several members of the group had things they wanted to share on the subject of forgiveness; things that were on an emotionally deeper level. Since Happiness 101 is a classroom format we decided to keep the class discussion more on that level. The students did express a desire for a one-time group, specifically to discuss forgiveness on the aforementioned deeper level. Therefore, on Monday, October 26th, we will have a group therapy session to address any issues related to forgiving others. This will occur at my office (220 East 3900 South #7) at 7pm. This will be a paid event (Happiness 101 is a free class). To make it affordable, I will charge my standard fee for the 90 minute group, however, the fee will be evenly split among the participants. So, if 12 people show up, they will each pay $10 ($120) or if six people attend, they will each pay $20. The students seemed to like and appreciate this out-of-the-box arrangement and I like it because it creates a natural incentive to bring a friend. As always, you may call 801-262-0317 for recorded information.

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