Disappointment

It is impossible to navigate life and remain free from disappointment. Researchers describe disappointment as a form of sadness or a feeling of loss. It is often experienced as an uncomfortable and sometimes painful space between our expectations and reality.  

Our experiences of disappointment provide valuable information about ourselves, other people, and our values. After we have had time to process a disappointment and fully express our feelings, it is possible to find a space for self-exploration and growth.  

Social norms suggest that certain things will make us happy. Yet, research suggests that many of the common things people work towards such as a nice house, new job, expensive car, or job title do very little to support lasting happiness or satisfaction. In contrast, developing greater self-awareness and a deeper connection to our values and a sense of meaning or purpose, as well as our active pursuit of these values and purpose, provides the best avenue for a lasting sense of happiness or satisfaction.  

How often have you reflected on the influence of society or social norms on your goals and ideas for what will make you happy? Where do your goals come from?  

Disappointment also provides a pause for us to evaluate our relationship to grasping and expectations.

What beliefs do you have about what you need or what you should obtain? Where did these beliefs come from? Who else in your past or current life holds similar beliefs?  

Lastly, acceptance is often viewed as a means of coping with disappointment. After we determine that nothing can be done to change the circumstances, acceptance is often our best option for positive coping as well as healing and growth. How can you work towards acceptance when faced with disappointment? What can you learn from others in your life about how to practice acceptance? 

Generally, acceptance can be practiced in all areas of life. We can practice acceptance of our experience, differing beliefs and views of others, difficult family or friends, our past, our appearance, as well as our thoughts and emotions. Acceptance does not mean that you endorse whatever is happening or move away from your own values and beliefs, rather it means you are accepting that you cannot change the current nature of reality, which also sometimes means moving through a grief process to arrive at a place of acceptance.    

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist 

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Existentialism in Daily Life

Existentialism suggests that we have both the freedom and responsibility to make our own choices by looking within ourselves. Accordingly, we are tasked with finding meaning, determining our values, and making decisions that shape our lives. Existential psychotherapy builds on these views by approaching therapy with an emphasis on self-determination and our individual search for meaning. It also understands anxiety as part of the human condition as we struggle with common concerns around the nature of our existence and the purpose of our lives.  

It is possible to incorporate existentialism into your daily life by living with greater self-awareness and making choices that align with your values.  

Tips for existentialism in daily life:

Reaffirming your values – Take time to think about your values. You might write these down or start a list that you can update as you consider what is most important to you.  

Meaning and purpose – Pause and reflect on your purpose and meaning at work or at home. Remind yourself of the bigger picture.    

Practice radical acceptance – Accept things the way they are without resistance. Instead of fighting reality, practice accepting reality by letting go.

Practice shifting to gratitude – When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, practice focusing on what you are grateful for in your life. Connect with a sense of gratitude for basic things such as food, shelter, and health as well as a sense of gratitude for your friends and loved ones. 

Practice reframing challenges as opportunities to live into your values – Reframing challenges as opportunities to practice values such as kindness or integrity can build resilience, while also creating more space for meaning and authenticity as you navigate daily life.  

Talk openly about your deeper questions with friends and loved ones – It is probably not typical to ask questions about life and death or the purpose of life, but it might surprise you to learn how often others think about these “big questions.”  Sharing these concerns can lead to deeper understanding and connection within your relationships.   

Start a journal around themes of meaning, values, and gratitude – Journaling is almost always helpful for increasing self-awareness and providing space to reflect. Consider taking time to write down your thoughts or simply practice writing down things you are grateful to have in your life.  

Meditate on impermanence – It is easy to get lost in the challenges and tasks of daily life. Taking time to realize that everything around you is always changing and our lives are limited can allow for us to more fully connect with the present and more fully appreciate life. Each moment is fleeting and each moment you have with a loved one is irreplaceable.  

Connect with new people each day and recognize the common humanity you share – We often make observations, assumptions, and judgement about others. Try shifting your attention to the common humanity you share with all people. When you encounter a person in public, remind yourself that they may also struggle with similar questions or have similar concerns. They may even be in great pain and emotional turmoil. In either case, the “big questions” apply to us all and suffering is an unavoidable part of life.  

Practice mindfulness – Practice everyday mindfulness by connecting with the present moment throughout the day. Allow yourself to step outside of “human-doing” mode and into “human-being” mode. Review my past blog for more ways of practicing everyday mindfulness.  

Through existential therapy and existentialism in daily living, we can become more attuned to our inner lives and live with greater intention. As we become more conscious of our values, we can choose to do things that provide us with a greater sense of purpose and allow for us to live our lives more authentically.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Laughter

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”

— Victor Hugo

Laughter is the best medicine. You have probably heard this statement more than once. In fact, there is much truth to the value of laughter for promoting and maintaining our physical and mental well-being. Laughter triggers healthy physical changes in the body as it strengthens our immune system and diminishes pain. Likewise, laughter triggers emotional changes, such as booting mood and protecting us from the impact of stress. It also encourages social connection, which can have a further positive impact on our physical and mental well-being.

How does Laughter Help?

Laughter helps to shift distressing emotions.

Laughter helps us relax and recharge.

Laughter and humor bring a sense of relief from heavy burdens and helps us to feel grounded and hopeful.  

Laughter helps to shift our perspective and promotes optimism.

Laughter helps to reduce stress and increases energy, enabling us to stay focused and accomplish more.

Laughter and humor can create psychological distance, which can lighten a burden and help us feel less overwhelmed.

Laughter helps us to connect with others, which can have a major impact on all aspects of our mental wellbeing.  

Tips

Smile. Smiling is the beginning of laughter, and like laughter, it’s contagious.

Be more spontaneous. 

Practice gratitude.

Do something silly.

Connect with a joyful mindset.

Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up. 

Find your inner child.  

Let go of defensiveness. 

Move toward laughter and join in the conversation when you see others laughing.  

Spend time with fun, playful people.

Share a good joke or a funny story.  

Ask people, “What’s the funniest thing that happened to you today? This week? In your life?”

Watch a funny movie, TV show, or YouTube video.

Play with children.

Attempt to laugh at situations rather than ruminate on them.

In addition to personal experience, there is plenty of research supporting the use of laughter to improve our mental well-being. Now it is up to us to seek out more opportunities to engage in laughter and use humor to promote our well-being and connect with others.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Appreciative Joy

Joy is a state of happiness or contentment. As we practice experiencing greater joy in our lives, we can extend this joy into the life of others. Appreciative joy is a type of joy that is experienced when we genuinely appreciate and delight in the happiness, success, and good fortune of others. 

We have many opportunities to feel joy for others and to extend our desire for their joy to grow and continue. However, we can be held back by feelings of envy or jealousy about their good fortune, and we can become stuck in comparisons wishing we had something more. 

What comes to your mind as you drive past a beautiful new house or see a brand-new expensive car? What about when a colleague or friend achieves a great success or promotion? Many of us might experience thoughts of judgement or feelings of jealousy. We may experience critical thoughts about our perceived lack of success or harbor negative attitudes. We may seek to rationalize or struggle to justify our own decisions and behaviors or become discouraged with our perceived shortcomings as we judge ourselves.

Meditating with a focus on feelings of joy for others who have experienced good fortune can take us outside of ourselves and expand our capacity for appreciative joy. Likewise, we can practice directing our attention towards others with appreciative joy as we practice gratitude for the good fortune of others. 

Appreciative joy has the practical benefit of helping to promote a psychologically positive outlook toward ourselves as well as sense of interconnectedness. When we are feeling good about ourselves internally, we don’t have to compare ourselves to others externally and we naturally wish others to be happy as well.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Becoming Love

“There is only one question: How to love this world.”

-Mary Oliver

What is love? What comes to mind when you say I love you? How do we learn and practice becoming love? 

Although there can be great joy in life, we live in a world filled heartache and suffering. There are wars, violence, unspeakable tragedy, poverty, hunger, disease, sadness, pain, and suffering. 

How do we love this world? 

To love only in optimal conditions is not real love. It can be easy to love all beings in the abstract, but it can be a great challenge to do so as our lives unfold with a multitude of demands or in the face of personal suffering. It is one thing to stay you love others and another to express that love in daily life.

The Buddhist tradition has developed a range of practices and reflections designed to develop our capacity to love. Like a muscle, love can be strengthened through practice. Lovingkindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and a particular form of equanimity are the four kinds of love taught and encouraged in classic Buddhist teachings. The four types of love can each become a core practice as we connect with the ways we can love this world. 

Tips for becoming love

Practice compassion and non-judgement of yourself and others. 

Do you focus on your shortcomings and deny or take for granted your positive attributes? Practice appreciating yourself and focus on the positive, rather than the negative.

Replace harmful habits with life-affirming habits and practices. 

Practice appreciative joy and celebrate the qualities, gifts, and achievements of others.

Practice self-acceptance: honoring and accepting all of yourself, including your shortcomings, mistakes, and feelings.

Practice forgiving yourself: as we develop self-compassion, we’re more accepting and compassionate toward others. 

Work through and accept your barriers of fear and shame that can hinder your path to cultivating love.

Practice loving-kindness through yours actions, everyday awareness, and meditation.  

Who do you love? What qualities do you bring into these relationships? Connect with these feelings of giving and receiving love and bring these qualities into all of your interactions. 

One of the most rewarding practices is to cultivate the ability to bring love into all aspects of our life and to all people we encounter. We can practice being a loving presence while we speak to others, even when we might be in conflict. This can be a greater challenge at times. It begins with having the intention and is supported by our own appreciation of love that we encounter. 

Open your heart as wide as possible. What would it be like if you brought love into all of your interactions, into all of your relationships, and into the lives of all living beings? 

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Our Inner Landscape

The mind is complex. It has far reaching abilities to think, plan, organize, create, discern, metalize, understand, analyze and hold great complexity. Our mind generates stories that can protect us by registering threats and danger by categorizing and developing schemas or scripts to simplify the complex world around us. Our minds also give us richness and meaning through narrative. All of this occurs in the form of verbal mental talk and imagery.  

We tend to generate stories centered around ourselves as our mind awakens and we move throughout our day. We sometimes become the heroes or villains of our own movies. Our stories can be vivid and seem very real. Yet, they can also set up problematic should’s and must’s or become limiting to our creativity. 

Our stories can even become re-runs of past stories of hurt or discouragement, impacting our current outlook and mood. They can take us into emotional reactivity and cause us to unintentionally impact those around us. Knowing this, we can take a step back and observe our mind and the stories we tell ourselves. 

Drop in for a visit to your inner landscape:

Observe your mind.

Recognize your thoughts.

What are your stories? 

How aware are you of the stories you are telling yourself?

What is the attitude of your mind right now?

Learn your patterns and styles of thought.

Learn to recognize the common themes based on your unique personal history.  

Pause your stories and observe yourself as you move through the world.  

Our minds do what they do. All of this is completely normal. However, attachment and overinvolvement in our stories can be problematic. Remind yourself that you are not your stories. Your thoughts are not your world. Remind yourself that your thoughts are not permanent and that we have the power to recognize and change our stories. 

When we become more mindful of our stories we can let go and rest in greater awareness, appreciating our stories as stories and connecting more deeply with the moments of joy that surround us when we live in the present.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Humility & Flexibility

Humility is defined as a modest view of one’s own importance. In practice it involves the acceptance that we are not always right and don’t always know, without either concern impacting our sense of self-worth. 

Flexibility is defined as the quality of bending easily without breaking. In practice it is the ability to accept new points of view or adjust to new facts with a sense of interest or curiosity, rather than viewing new facts as threats.    

Attempting to cope by predicting the next obstacle or challenge is a tenuous way of adapting to the infinite number possibilities the future may hold. Humility and flexibility work together to allow for us to return to our center when we experience the unexpected gusts of life. They allow for us to maintain stability or the ability to return to equilibrium after we are disrupted.  

Tips for Practicing Humility 

Spend more time listening than you do talking.

Accept that you are not the best at everything.

Ask for help and advice. 

Learn to give credit where it is due and give praise for a job well done.

Welcome different opinions. 

Recognize your flaws and be aware that you are not perfect. 

Avoid bragging or showing off.

Tips for Practicing Flexibility

Look for opportunities to give up control.

Challenge yourself to try new behaviors and break out of habitual patterns.

Aim for flexibility, not perfection.

Look for opportunities to compromise.  

Remain teachable and learn from your mistakes.

Practice slowing down and being intentional about your decisions.  

Practice mindfulness meditation and everyday mindfulness.  

At any given point we all face challenges to our sense of stability and equilibrium. On very hard days we may be thrown off balance repeatedly and experience a complete loss of stability. Such days are a fact of life. Humility and flexibility fuel our resilience and allow for us to return more readily to a state of equilibrium.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Self-esteem

Experiences of low self-esteem and low self-worth are not uncommon. We all struggle with how we feel about ourselves from time-to-time. Some of us may even struggle with our self-worth on a regular basis.

Issues of self-esteem are central to overall mental health. When we experience a stable sense of self-esteem we are less likely to struggle with problems related to personality, addiction, or other unhealthy behaviors. A realistic and reliable sense of self-esteem is also an overarching treatment goal for most psychotherapy approaches, even if it is not explicitly identified as such.

Developing realistic self-esteem or self-esteem that is neither perfectionistic nor falsely inflated is important when considering personal growth and efforts to support the development of greater self-confidence. 

How do you experience your self-esteem? Are you overly concerned or need to achieve perfection to experience a sense of worth? How realistic are your goals and self-evaluations?

Developing reliable self-esteem is likewise an important part of psychological wellness. Self-esteem is reliable when it protects us from feeling devastated by criticism or manipulated by excessive praise. It provides us with a basis for evaluating negative feedback without feeling a sense of shame or excessive self-doubt.   

How do you feel when faced with criticism? How do you react or behave? How do you feel when faced with praise? How do you react or behave? How stable or consistent is your sense of self-worth and what causes you to doubt yourself?

Tips for Building Self-esteem

Identify your strengths.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

Follow through on commitments you make to yourself.

Remain open to change and remind yourself that meaningful change can take time. 

Look for opportunities to practice taking initiative and experience a sense of agency.

Connect with positive and supportive people. 

Learn to accept compliments.

Allow yourself to feel proud.

Take small steps to face your fears.

Observe your self-talk; if you are overly critical, shift to more positive self-talk.

Practice self-compassion and affirm your inherent worth.

Overall, individuals with healthy self-esteem are able to remain levelheaded about personal limitations, while also acknowledging and trusting in their strengths. As we grow our self-esteem we will be more able to embrace our inevitable faults and needs, while also apologizing for any hurt we cause and expressing gratitude when others reach out to help us. Realistic and reliable self-esteem allows us to make our needs known, accept responsibility for our actions, and ultimately experience more genuine emotional intimacy in our relationships.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Gaslighting

Gaslighting involves intentionally changing or otherwise distorting reality to manipulate how others think or feel to get what we want. Individuals who engage in gaslighting attempt to make others doubt the truth of their own experiences. They often do everything they can to get their needs met. 

Gaslighting is a common narcissistic behavior, often seen amongst people with narcissistic personality traits such as a lack of empathy or understanding of others, self-centeredness, superiority, exaggerating one’s achievements, or impatience and being quick to anger when criticized. 

It can be very hard to deal with gaslighting as it often leaves one feeling doubtful and uncertain. Moreover, stepping outside of an intense relationship in order to observe the dynamics involved in gaslighting is challenging, not to mention how one might act to counter these dynamics. Reviewing some common types of gaslighting can be helpful for better understanding these dynamics and useful ways of responding.  

Types of Gaslighting

Several examples of gaslighting include withholding, countering or denial, trivializing or minimizing, distracting or diverting, and stereotyping.

Withholding

Withholding occurs when another person refuses to engage in conversation or listen to your concerns. Although this can involve concrete avoidance, it more commonly involves pretending not to understand what you are talking about. This is often seen in defensive reactions when confronted about gaslighting, which sometimes results in playing a victim. A partner may say, “That makes no sense at all.. You are confusing.. or I guess you have your version of what happened.”

Distracting or diverting 

Distracting or diverting is when another person denies your emotions or what you’re trying to say, causing you to doubt your thoughts and feelings. Gaslighting partners may use platitudes as a way to distract their partners from their feelings, causing the partners to feel as if they are overacting. For example, a partner might say, “I love you so much, and you know I’d never intentionally hurt your feelings.” 

Countering or Denial 

Countering occurring when another person denies your memory of events or acts as if a past event did not occur. They may question your entire memory or parts of a memory, asserting that their version is correct. In more extreme cases, they may even attack your memory abilities or intelligence. For example, a partner might say, “I never said that.. We never talked about it.. or You are thinking of something else.”  

Minimizing or Trivializing

Minimizing or trivializing is one of the most pervasive and impactful forms of gaslighting. It occurs when a person disregards and invalidates your feelings, causing you to think that your emotions aren’t valid in any way. They make use hurtful statements and harsh criticism to blame everything on you or suggest that your emotions don’t matter, and your concerns are not a big deal. When faced with minimizing or trivializing, it may feel as if you cannot share your feelings or you may start believing that everything is entirely your fault. A partner may say “You are overly sensitive, critical, or dramatic and get it together”

Stereotyping

Stereotyping occurring when another person judges you according to your identity, traits, or beliefs, such as gender, race, sexuality, or cultural background to invalidate your feelings and experiences. A classic example is when a partner says, “You tend to be more emotional because you’re a woman.”

Tips for Dealing with Gaslighting

Set boundaries by knowing exactly what you will tolerate and what you will not tolerate.  

Collect evidence to support your views when faced with countering and denial.

Confront the person gaslighting you with confidence despite your feelings of insecurity and doubt.

Trust your instincts and confront by focusing on how their behavior and actions are affecting you negatively. 

Be careful not to minimize your version of the truth if the other person begins to act as a victim or engage in further gaslighting by minimizing your concerns or your memory of events.  

Don’t try to comfort them when they play the victim, and don’t try to lessen your version of the truth for their sake. 

Seek space from the other person or take a break when faced with an argument so that you can reflect and analyze the reality of the situation and decide how you might like to proceed. This is particularly helpful as gaslighting can be emotionally and psychologically draining, making it more difficult to trust yourself and feel confident when the best path is to reinforce a boundary.

One of the hardest decisions to make is the decision to walk away from the relationship if you feel that there is little hope of your partner or friend changing their behavior. It is useful to seek professional support for yourself. Likewise, working with a marriage and family therapist can be useful when navigating these dynamics and asserting appropriate boundaries. A therapist can also help hold the relationship as a central focus and address concerns from an outside perspective, while drawing on their expertise with relationships. If you feel that you might be dealing with gaslighting, remember that you are not alone. This is a common dynamic in problematic friendships, romantic partnerships, and families. Psychotherapy can also be incredibly helpful in navigating these relationships and planning for the best path forward.

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Skillful Ways of Being

We all face challenges and must find ways of dealing with difficult emotional states such as envy, dislike, anxiety, fear, and general distress. Coping effectively allows for us to move through distress with greater ease. Below are several useful contemplations and practices that can be helpful in expanding our capacity to cope with greater ease.  

When faced with a feeling of envy or a greed, particularly towards others, it is useful to contemplate impermanence and letting go.

Change is a central feature of life. Buddhism points us toward equanimity during times of change. The Buddha taught that suffering is not inherent in the world of impermanence; suffering arises when we cling and grasp. When clinging disappears, impermanence no longer gives rise to suffering. The solution is to end clinging or grasping to our version of how the world should be and turn toward acceptance of change.

Recognize that all conditioned things are impermanent. All that we have and everyone we know is subject to change. 

When we experience aversion or a strong feeling of dislike and distress it is useful to contemplate kindness, gentleness, patience and spaciousness. 

Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Think of times when you have experienced kindness and contemplate how this felt. Bring an intention to act with kindness throughout your day.  

Gentleness is the quality of being kind, courteous, and tender with softness of action. Think of a time when you experienced gentleness and contemplate how this felt. Bring an intention to act or react with gentleness throughout your day.  

Patience is the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. Think of a time when others were patient with you and contemplate how this felt. Bring an intention to act with patience throughout your day.  

Spaciousness as an attitude is the willingness to suspend the process of meaning-making and judgement. It is the willingness allow for uncertainty and ambiguity by creating mental and emotional space. It is an experience of expansiveness. Spaciousness feels like widening the space between stimulus and response, such that you can stop living in reaction and begin responding skillfully to reality. Think of a time when you connected with a sense of spaciousness and contemplate how it felt. Develop an intention to connect with a sense of spaciousness throughout your day.  

When faced with anxiety, fear, and doubt, it is useful to contemplate a sense of being grounded in our values and connecting with a sense of meaning. 

Grounded-ness is the quality of being well balanced and calm. It is a parallel to the experience and practice of equanimity. Practice being grounded through your body by walking barefoot, lying on the ground, submersing yourself in water, and connecting with your five senses. Reflect on what things help you feel calm and give yourself permission to practice these more regularly.  

Values are guiding principles and involve our judgement for what is important. Personal values are those beliefs we hold most dear. They can be goals that motivate us and touchpoints for how we define ourselves and make meaning out of our experiences. Think of a time when you experienced yourself as acting in accordance with your values and contemplate how this felt. Bring an intention to live into your values or act according to your values throughout your day.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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