Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Online and Telephone Counseling

I’m excited to announce that I am now offering online counseling for English speaking persons worldwide.  The Live Chat sessions are held in the secure chat room on my website:   

This new format is in addition to the telephone counseling services I have provided for many years to clients who have moved away, referrals from local clients, those interested in working with a therapist out of their area, or individuals desiring even more privacy than meeting at a therapist’s office.
Online counseling via instant messaging format is a form of therapy that has existed since the late 1990s and has become very popular during the past 8 – 10 years.  It is convenient, safe, and more economical than face to face counseling.

I hope you visit my online and telephone counseling website and please share this information with all your friends, worldwide.  Thank you!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Perfectionism, Part 2

You have probably already taken the Perfectionism Quiz and, therefore, now know how perfectionist you tend to be.  If you haven’t, I suggest you do by doing to my website:  You’ll find it listed on the left side of the homepage.

Let’s move forward. 

Perfectionists commonly exhibit three mental distortions that are nonproductive for effectively dealing with daily living.

The most common distortion is all-or-nothing thinking.  Perfectionists see everything in a dichotomous manner. To them, everything is either good or bad; right or wrong; black or white.  There are no shades of gray.

The second distortion found in perfectionists is over-generalizations.  They come to the conclusion that a negative event will repeat itself endlessly.  Over-generalized thinking leads to a narrow margin of safety.  This results in a narrow road of perceived success and a wide road of perceived failure, with no median.

The third distortion involves “should” statements.  This is an attitude that leaves out self-acceptance.  The perfectionist does not attempt to learn from mistakes, is not self-compassionate.  Instead, there is self-deprecation.  There are standards that are impossible to consistently maintain and there is no room for taking factors such as experiences, emotional needs, etc. into consideration.  These make us unable to handle every situation with flawless grace.  Instead, there is the continuous pressure of expecting to always do as one “should”.  This attitude creates feelings of frustration and guilt that cause them not to be able to see beyond the error.  Perfectionists become trapped by nonproductive, self-critical dialogues that lead to depression and negative self-esteem.

So, take some time to notice when you engage in all-or-nothing thinking, over-generalizations and/or “should” statements.  This will prepare you for next week when we’ll discuss how to begin changing the perfectionist habit.

Copyright 2011 Lynn Borenius Brown

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Perfectionism, Part 1

Perfectionism is not the pursuit of excellence.  Perfectionists do not get genuine pleasure from striving to meet high standards.  And, perfectionism is not healthy.

Perfectionists’ standards are so high they go beyond reach and are not reasonable.  They set impossible goals for themselves.  Their drive to excel is self-defeating.

Research has shown that perfectionists are vulnerable to some serious mood disorders.  They tend to suffer from depression, performance anxiety, text anxiety, social anxiety, writer’s block, and obsessive-compulsive illness.  They respond to perceived failure or inadequacy with a loss of self-esteem that can trigger severe depression and anxiety.

Many perfectionists are plagued by loneliness and disrupted personal relationships.  This is common because they fear and anticipate rejection.  Perfectionists are convinced they will be judged to be imperfect and this will automatically result in rejection.  They believe others standards are as excessively high as their own.  Because of this anticipation, they tend to react defensively to criticism which causes others frustration and alienation.  So, perfectionists bring on the anticipated outcome by their own actions. This reinforces the irrational belief that they must be perfect to be accepted.

Disclosure phobia is also common among perfectionists.  This resistance to sharing inner thoughts and feelings keeps others at an emotional distance. And their tendency to apply excessively high standards to others often leads to disappointment in others.

I suggest you complete and score the informal Perfectionism Quiz on my website:  so you’ll have some idea of how perfectionist you tend to be.

Next week, we’ll discuss the three mental distortions perfectionists commonly exhibit that are nonproductive for effectively dealing with living.

Copyright 2011 Lynn Borenius Brown

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cultural Norms

The term “culture” is defined as the concepts, habits, skills, and institutions of a given people in a given period.

The term “norm” means a standard or pattern for a group.  Norms exist for the continued functioning of the group, the meaning of life and the motivation for survival, the maintenance of order, dealing with outsiders, and socializing new members.  A norm is, in a fundamental sense, a shared rule or guide to behavior that is deemed appropriate or inappropriate.

Unless your culture (and therefore your norms) is different from the societal majority where you live, you have probably not given much thought to the fact that you live in a culture and this culture has a determined standard for each of the persons living in that culture.  You are probably only aware of cultural norms if you are a first generation American or belong to a group considered a minority.

However, it is important for each of us to become aware of the norms of the culture to which we belong because these rules/guidelines directly influence how we interact with others – what we say and do as well as how others perceive what we say and do.

There are five basic cultures in which most of us function on a normal basis:  intimate relationships, family, friends, community, and work.

And, we’ll be attending to eight norm areas that we deal with each day:  definition of the culture, roles one plays in the culture, expectations/rules of the culture, use of power/influence (who, what, where, when, and why), decision-making/cooperation (how this is handled), formality/informality (how informal of formal this culture is), boundaries/intimacy of the culture, and communication/language usage within the culture.

Take time to define for yourself what your norms are for each of the eight areas of each of the cultures.  You may be surprised at what you discover.  You may get answers to some concerns you have had regarding why there have been issues in one or more of these cultures.  Also, you may find that the culture within which you are functioning may not be the majority culture and therefore your norms are much different from those around you, indicating a need to become sensitive to the cultural norms of those with whom you are attempting to have relationships.

Each of us lives within our cultural norms, providing an unspoken but profoundly significant foundation for how we see and deal with the world around us.

As a first-generation American from a Scandinavian background who was culturally isolated during my formative years, I am made aware each day of how my ingrained cultural norms differ from others. This knowledge assists me in that I am aware that it is necessary for me to make allowances for these differences if I am to function effectively within the majority culture.

So, enjoy getting to know yourself from a cultural and norm vantage point and honor your culture and your norms while being sensitive to others and their cultural norms.  You will find that relationships function more smoothly when you do!

Copyright 2011 Lynn Borenius Brown

Friday, March 4, 2011

Conflict Resolution

Just as we always hope there will never be problems to solve, we also wish that we could avoid conflict.   Countless times during my lifetime of counseling clients I have heard people say, “I hate conflict so I avoid it.”  Of course, nothing is accomplished if it isn't addressed.  But, since most people never are taught how to do this, there is a natural reluctance to attend to it.   So, let’s change that!  Here are the essential steps to conflict resolution:

1.      Create a Productive Atmosphere - Working together makes the conflict resolution environment one of win-win.  Openness to other ideas, having it take place in a neutral environment, etc. will automatically help defuse the hostility that conflict can create.

2.     Clarify Perceptions - This step involves asking questions and clarifying one’s own as well as the other person’s perceptions.  It is avoiding stereotyping, working at trying to understand your conflict partner, and using the “listening” and “understanding” aspects of your communication skills.

3.     Determine Needs of Those Involved - This step is looking at yourself honestly, determining what you really need, and what your goals are.   And then, having a willingness to listen to what the other person’s needs are.

4.     Generate Options - During this step, brainstorming is important; generating as many options as possible and the willingness to accept that the other person may have good ideas.

5.     Develop Action Steps - Now is the time to take a look at all of the options and determine what to do to resolve the conflict.

6.     Win-Win Outcome - The only action steps allowed are those that result in a win-win situation.  A perceived win-lose outcome is actually a lose-lose because the conflict has not been resolved if one of you feels as though you have lost.

By practicing these conflict resolution skills, you will feel less hesitant to attend to conflicts when they arise.   This willingness to deal with what comes at you in life increases your self-esteem as well as your confidence. 

Copyright 2011 Lynn Borenius Brown