New Article in Huffington Post: How to Not Lose Yourself When You're in Love

I'm thrilled to share my first publication in Huffington Post! Click the image for the original article.

It’s a common fear among women that in committing wholeheartedly to a relationship with a partner, we will lose our relationship with ourselves. This comes from a core belief that we cannot be devoted to another person while still being true to ourselves.

But what if it were possible to have a deep passionate loving relationship with a partner and also have a deep passionate loving relationship with you? What if both could exist at the same time, and in fact, the strength of one relationship was directly and positively correlated to the strength of the other?

It’s possible for your relationship with yourself and your relationship with your partner to work in tandem, serving as foils for each other and causing exponential, reciprocal growth and expansion. This is the definition of a healthy partnership: a relationship in which the individuals are stronger because of the power of the whole.

Here are some ways to keep from losing yourself when you’re in a relationship

1. Recognize that your relationship with yourself is the more important of the two relationships.

This may sound selfish but in fact it’s the opposite. You can’t have a deep connection with somebody else if you’re not connected to yourself.

Being connected to yourself means owning all parts of yourself including the shadow parts of you —the parts of you that are blindingly angry, irrationally jealous, callously thoughtless. Disconnection from these will become a challenge and your relationship with your partner.

For example, a friend of mine ran into serious conflict with her husband after their first child was born. She felt like her husband wasn’t connected enough to their son. She told him he needed to spend more time with their son, that he was too focused on work, and that he needed to hug his son more and be more spontaneous with him.

It was only after doing some deep work on herself that she began to realize she was projecting her feelings about her own relationship with her father onto her husband. She also realized that her constant badgering of her husband had led to feelings of inadequacy in both of them.

She didn’t like badgering the man she loved. She knew it made him feel bad about himself and didn’t seem to have a positive effect on his relationship with his son. She just couldn’t stop until she did the work of strengthening her relationship with herself, getting to the root of the issue within her, and then getting to the root of the issue in the partnership.

2. Realize that your compassion for your partner is only as deep as your compassion for yourself.

Understanding this is the first step in uncovering the blocks to love in you and of doing the deep work within you.

My friend couldn’t stop criticizing her husband’s relationship with his with her son, but she also couldn’t stop criticizing herself far more harshly than she would ever criticize her husband.

When it came down to it, she expected nothing less than perfection in herself. She wasn’t consciously aware of this; she simply had the background chatter of her inner critic running all the time.

Her son was a colicky baby who was seemingly inconsolable a lot of the time, leading my friend to question what she was doing wrong as a mother. She felt like other mothers would be able to handle a difficult baby with far more grace and ease than she ever could. She often felt like a failure as a mother, particularly because this has been a very wanted to baby and now she wasn’t enjoying him.

Though she found very little compassion in her judgment of her husband’s relationship with her son she found absolutely none in her judgment of her own relationship with her son. It was only through doing the difficult work of coming to terms with how toxic her relationship with herself had gotten that she was able to start doing the work of owning her piece of her relationship with her husband.

As she became more connected to herself, she opened up space for connection with her husband again.

 3. See your relationship with your partner not as a potential liability to your authenticity but as the most powerful medium for your own personal growth.

Relationships have a funny way of bringing our deepest longings, deepest hurts, and deepest wounds to the surface. Our partners are our greatest mirrors and are therefore our greatest gift in our personal growth. They’re a major blessing in our journey to better understand ourselves.

The best thing to do when we’re feeling hurt, offended, or slighted by our partners is to first have a dialogue with ourselves about what we’re seeing in the mirror our partners are holding up to us.

How does communicating with ourselves work when we’re feeling slighted by our partners?

Ask yourself if what you’re feeling is familiar. Have you felt angry or frustrated in about this issue before in another relationship? How old were you the first time you felt this way? What was the end result? How did it ultimately impact that relationship and your life?

For my friend, the conflict with her husband became a springboard to start processing a relationship with a former boyfriend that had ended in heartache. The relationship had hugely impacted her self-esteem in ways she never realized and left her with a deep wound that disconnected her from her most authentic self.

She also realized that time spent on social media was only serving to put her perfectionistic tendencies into overdrive. She took back control by deleting apps from her phone and using time that the baby was sleeping to catch up on a long-neglected pile of fiction books.

Through therapy and journaling, she learned techniques to be more compassionate to herself and began to find the tools she needed to effectively communicate with her husband.

Our deepest most intimate relationships are with our partners. They’re where we’re most vulnerable. For that reason, they’re the place where our light and our shadow can be seen most clearly. Our partners give us the opportunity to see things in ourselves that no one else can.

See your relationship with your partner as a conduit for enriching, enhancing, and deepening your relationship with yourself. Through this lens, your relationship with your partner will naturally be enriched, enhanced, and deepened as well.
 

To connect and learn more about my services or to set up a free phone consultation, click the button below:

Interviews with Equitable Mediation

I, along with a panel of counselors, was recently interviewed by Equitable Mediation divorce mediators located in New Jersey and Chicago.  

mediation.png

Click on the links to see the full articles.

What advice would you give to an individual whose marriage is clearly beyond repair, yet despite unhappiness and desire to divorce, they take no action to start the process and instead remain miserable for months, or even years, frozen in fear?

https://www.equitablemediation.com/blog/when-to-leave-a-marriage

My response:

It is understandable that it would feel in many ways more comfortable to remain in a broken marriage than to leave and have to deal with the unknown.

Instead of looking at it as a leap into a completely different (and possibly) worse life, it is helpful to see the change as one that can be leaned into deliberately with the goal of transforming that fear into greater freedom and joy in life. 

It is also important to remain clear on the reasons for leaving the marriage and let those lead the person in purposeful, conscious action. Individual therapy may be needed to address issues of self-esteem and self-worth that may be holding the person back.

Writing down all of the fears on paper in order to begin addressing them one by one in tiny, manageable steps can also be helpful.

Finally, getting a solid support system in place is crucial. Making a list of people that are currently supportive as well as those that may be of support, and how, can be extremely reassuring.

What are some signs that progress is being made in marriage counseling and the marriage is back on track?

https://www.equitablemediation.com/blog/how-to-know-if-marriage-counseling-is-working

The greatest barometer for how well couples counseling is working is how the partners are feeling both as individuals and as members of a whole. Can they identify new tools and techniques to communicate their needs effectively? Are they able to hear their partner out without feeling the need to defend or judge? Do they feel greater personal sovereignty and authenticity as a result of the inner work they are doing as a couple?

Oftentimes children are exposed to dysfunction in their parents' marriages and later in their own personal relationships. They enter their marriage without the skills to engage in the relationship in a conscious, just, open-hearted way. Counseling is a way to build the foundation they may never have had in the first place.

How would a couple know if the marriage isn't working and it might be time to end the marriage?

https://www.equitablemediation.com/blog/how-to-know-if-marriage-counseling-is-working

The decision to end a marriage is intensely personal. One needs to look at the benefits of staying in the marriage and how they compare to the benefits of leaving it.  In which scenario would the person feel more whole, more authentic, more free? Are the issues that are leading them to consider leaving the marriage insurmountable?

Many people enter couples counseling hoping to change their partner.  However, it is crucial for each member of the couple to take an honest look at their role in the conflict and the shame/blame cycle.

In other words, is this marriage still serving you? If not, and it is clear there is no way for it to serve you and fulfill you in the way you need to feel whole in the future, it may be time to shift the conversation to how to step away from the marriage.

To learn more about my services or to schedule a free phone consultation, click the button below:

The Quickest and Easiest Way to Self-Care

When you're already overwhelmed and overloaded and your to do list is a mile long, it's easy to see self care as another source of stress. It becomes another thing you're supposed to be doing, another thing to feel guilty about not doing.

Pretty soon it becomes a source of self-criticism:

"I'm not taking good enough care of myself."

"What's wrong with me?"

"I should meditate or something, but I just don't feel like it."

I used to see self care as something to feel guilty about not doing. It was another thing on my to-do list like laundry and taking out the recycling. But as I've gotten more in touch with my feminine energy, I have come to realize that self care is a gift that only I can give myself.

It's not something that inhibits my freedom by taking up time I don't feel prepared to invest. Self care actually gives me the gift of pleasure, the gift of comfort, the gift of expressing love to myself.

As women, it is our birthright to experience pleasure and joy on a daily basis. I make time to do this by waking up at 4:30 in the morning and taking an hour and a half before the rest of my family wakes up to spend loving time with myself.

Here's how that looks:

::I wake up and wash my face with warm water to help energize me.

::I look up at the moon to see where it is in its monthly cycle

::I honor the gift of my body through stretching and exercise.

::I give myself the gift of clarity through meditation

::Finally, I make myself a quiet cup of (decaf) coffee and spend devoted time with my journal

When I do these, things, I feel filled before the day has even begun for my family. If nothing else gets accomplished that day, if the rest of the day gets away from me, I still carry with me the gifts that my morning routine brought to me.

Of course, I always have the freedom to decide that a 4:30 wake up call just isn't worth it and sleep in. But most days, I truly do see it as a gift to myself, nourishment for my soul that only I can provide for myself.

So experiment with making sacred time for yourself a priority as important as getting to class or paying a bill. Experiment with making it a non-negotiable.

Make your presence with yourself your present to yourself.

 

To learn more about my services or schedule a free phone consultation, please click the button below:

You Don't Have to Figure it All Out Before You Start

My clients are smart savvy women in transition. Women are wired for transition - we are cyclical beings by nature. But with transition comes uncertainty, frustration and fear.

My clients want to do what is most authentic, most in alignment with their deepest desires and core values. They want what is most helpful to others and best for their families and themselves.

They struggle with the concept that there is no "best."

They believe that they need to know all the steps to reach their goal before they even start. If they don't have a crystal clear vision of how to shape the future they desire, they delay with ever increasing and elaborate preparations.

in our work together, notion that my clients have to figure it all out gets challenged. They learn to trust that the universe is an abundant place that has created the right conditions for life to expand in exactly the right ways in exactly the right proportions for millions of years.

We look at how their feelings of disconnection and uncertainty about their next steps come from disconnection from themselves and explore how to tap into their own intuition and inner-wisdom to get connected again.

Part of connecting with their intuition is tapping into the life energy that is in them, as them, through them. They see the profound effect that aligning with that life energy brings to them with greater and greater specificity the life they are wanting to live.

My clients are seeking feelings of peace, relief, joy, comfort, freedom and certainty. Through our work together, they discover an endless source of those feelings within themselves.

Their access to this source is limited only by their own thoughts: thoughts that "best" is a worthwhile goal, thoughts that they need to know all the details of their journey before their journey even begins.

In other words, they learn to allow the journey toward a desired outcome to begin with a connection to life energy. They let go of the fear that triggers the need to control all the specifics and instead hold on only to the specifics of how they want to feel when the journey is complete.

 

 

If you would like to learn more about how we can work together to discover the love, intuition, and authenticity already inside you, call me for a consultation at 973-769-2401 or email Amy.Beth.Acker@gmail.com

 

 

 

Check Out My New Article in Elephant Journal!

We all have things we depend on for comfort. Things that if lost would mean we would have to go inside and finally do the work that our “best friends” have been protecting us from doing.

We would have to get very vulnerable very quickly.

To read the rest, check out the full article!

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/04/how-to-get-by-without-a-little-help-from-our-friends/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Issues in Clinical Supervision: I'm Not a Parent!

The young-in-their-careers therapists I supervise often come to me with similar fears:

"I have anxiety about being a good therapist. How can I help others with their anxiety when I'm anxious?"

"I'm not a parent. What right do I have to advise parents?"

"I don't want to disappoint or hurt my clients. I'm afraid and I don't like being afraid. It might be easier if I get a job where I know I won't fail like folding shirts at the Gap."

Being a new therapist is overwhelming. We come into the profession to help people live better lives, and the thought that we could somehow cause more harm than good is devastating to us.

The truth is if you enter a career in counseling, helping people is most certainly more than what you do. It's who you are. Here are some tips I give my clinical supervision clients:

Focus on the Big Picture

If you look around, you will see that you help people all the time, and have been doing so your entire life, just not in the capacity of being an Official Therapist. List the times in the past weeks, months, or years when you have been of immense service or help to someone and notice the confidence these memories bring you.

Take the Pressure off

In the same way an oncologist doesn't need to experience cancer to know how to best treat it, we don't need to have the exact same experiences as our clients to be of service to them.

That doesn't mean that we won't develop specialties and areas of expertise over time. As you see more clients, you will learn who you work best with and eventually begin to focus working on those populations as much as possible.

However, it is not a requirement that your journey and your client's journey look exactly the same in order to help them. Fear, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, confusion frustration - these are all universal life experiences.

Adjust your Expectations of Yourself

Counseling is a skill that strengthens with time. Your schooling is really just the beginning of your journey. If your expectation is that you will never feel overwhelmed with a client, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

Remember that our reactions and feelings to clients are valuable information (counter-transference in grad school speak). They give us a window into our client's emotional state. They allow us to know what it is like to be in a relationship with our client. They inform us about areas in our own personal lives where we may still need work.

Remember that the Therapeutic Relationship is a Reciprocal one

Our clients teach us as much as we teach them - if we are open to it. They take the form of the fears and obstacles we have overcome. Clients that challenge us are often a mirror for our own doubts. Your clinical supervision is there to help us identify the parts of ourselves that need healing.

There is no need to try to impress or convince them of your expertise. Use the energy of joining them on their journey, of meeting them where they're at. The pushing or fearful energy is what stops them and makes them not want to enter a therapeutic relationship with you.

 

Try to see these early years in your career with love and gratitude for the gifts they will offer you - gifts that unfold with each new client you see. Also have gratitude for the gifts that your specific life path have brought you thus far - a desire to live your truest, most aligned purpose - helping people live their truest, most aligned purpose, empathy and education to truly help your clients, connection with universal truths of human existence, and so much more!

You Might Find You Get What You Need

There have been times in my life where I felt with every fiber of my being that I would only be happy with a specific outcome to a situation. I prayed for that outcome, visualized it, did everything in my power that I could do on a practical level to manifest that outcome and still it didn't happen.

The result was always anger, guilt, disappointment and shame. I questioned if there was more I could have done. I wondered if there was something wrong with me that made me unable to bring what I believed I needed into my life.  I was pissed at the universe. I was pissed at myself for failing myself. I had made my happiness contingent on an outcome and if that outcome didn't happen, I wasn't happy.

In other words, I was closing my heart at the exact moment I needed it to be open.

These moments of disappointment are as inevitable as our very breath. We are not in this life to have our every desire delivered with a sprig of parsley and an after dinner mint. We are here to grow, to expand, to become the freest, highest, most authentic version of ourselves. Unfortunately, our human brains are woefully inept at predicting how to make that happen.

We believe that the universe operates in simple, easily understood rules, and we believe our internal happiness is contingent on external events.

Basically, we want it all to make sense.

Our highest selves can be found not in thought, but in the experience of love. The more we love, the more we are in tune with our highest selves. The more angry and disappointed we are, the more disconnected we are - not just from the targets of those feelings, but also from ourselves.

The truth is that events can never block us from experiencing love; only our thoughts can do that. Our growth is about understanding this.

Life doesn't always give you what you want, but life always gives you what you really want, which is an abundance of opportunities to connect with unconditional love. No matter what happens, that can never be taken away because unconditional love is the essence of our being. So while we are not protected in our lives from anything bad ever happening to us, we are protected by life when they do happen because life has already infused us with all we need to handle it.

 

If you would like to learn more about infusing your life with unconditional love, call me at

973-769-2401 or email amy.beth.acker@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

An Act of Love

When you're a new mom, it is easy to oscillate- sometimes moment by moment- between complete love and gratitude for the new life you have created and complete overwhelment. It can feel impossible to meet even your most basic needs when all the time and energy you have seems to go directly into meeting the needs of your child. Sometimes it feels like too much to handle.

This was the case for a good friend of mine when her older son was three and her younger son was two months.

Forgetting

She called me one day in tears and told me she had done something that made her question her entire sense of self. I listened as she told me the story of what happened.

She was feeling excited and hopeful that day because she had managed to get some things done around the house while the baby slept peacefully in his swing. Toys that had been out for days were finally put away, laundry sorted and folded, and a load of dishes in the dishwasher. She even got in a shower before it was time to pick her older son up from school.

She arrived at her son's classroom feeling like she might finally have the whole mom of two kids thing under control, but that all came crashing down when his teacher opened the classroom door and asked "Oh, did the baby stay home with dad today?"

Her heart dropped. Panic washed over her. She had forgotten to take the baby into the school! She had left him strapped in his car seat!

A nauseating combination of shame, terror, and humiliation ensued as she pushed past the other parents to fetch the baby from the car where he was sleeping peacefully.

She was in disbelief that she could do something so grossly irresponsible. She never thought she could forget her own child. If she was capable of forgetting him once, she reasoned, it could happen again at any time. Maybe her own child wasn't safe with her. Maybe she didn't have what it took to be a good mom and this proved it.

Remembering

After several solid hours of freaking out, she talked to some friends who all had stories of similar situations happening to them, which reminded her that she, like all other parents in the world was a human being having a human experience.

When you have an experience that threatens your core beliefs about yourself, your ability to forgive yourself is what will determine whether you are able to move forward or remain stuck in a shame spiral. I have found that the quickest way to forgive yourself is to remember yourself.

Remember that you are your own harshest critic but that your deepest core is always love. You just need to allow that love in. Imagine the "flawed" part of you as a small child begging to be treated with love despite her imperfections. See how badly she is hurting.

See that you aren't able to fully love those around you including your children when you don't fully love yourself. After all, you can't give something you don't have.

Turning it Around

I said these things to my friend as she breathed into the phone. When I was done, she replied, "I know I need to work on loving myself and forgiving myself more. But how?"

"You already know," I told her. "Start taking care of yourself and letting the outside and the inside be reflections of love. Start small and all is coming for you in time."


"You mean taking care of my body?" she asked.

"Yes, taking care of your body is an act of love that you want for yourself and that you want to model for your sons. You also need to care for your mind and spirit. You need to treat yourself like the whole person you are. It's not that complicated, I promise. And I promise every mother on the planet has been exactly where you have been. Forgiving yourself for being imperfect is a journey but it's one you don't have to take alone.

My heart went out to my friend whose confidence as a mother was so shaken by her mistake. We have all been there in one way or another as women because as women we are all creators of fragile things, whether it is a child or a piece of art or a new idea. The universe is always expanding and so are we. It's a journey for sure, but it's one we can take together.

 

If you want to learn more about the next steps in your journey, call me for a free phone consultation at (973) 769-2401.

 

To the Woman Who Isn't Getting the Help She Needs

To the Woman Who Isn't Getting the Help She Needs:

I know you have been suffering in silence with anxiety or hopelessness or feeling like you no longer exist in any recognizable form. I know you are feeling so many things right now: shame that you can't seem to get better on your own, sadness that things are this bad despite all you have done to fix it.

I know you feel like your spirituality or meditation or self help studies or exercise or diet changes should have fixed things right now. You feel like if you just tried a little harder you would start to see more progress. But you're tired. You don't know how to get yourself out of this. You feel weak. You think maybe you just need more self control. Maybe that would fix things.

I know you don't want one more day of feeling panicked, helpless, on edge. I know you want the waves of anxiety to stop. I know you've been snapping at the people you love the most and then beating yourself up over it.

The people you have confided in may have been dismissive - even those who supposedly know you the best. They don't see your situation as being as bad as you feel it is. You think you might be overreacting, but you know deep down inside you're not.

I know you wonder: what if this is the way you are and nothing can change that?

To the woman who isn't getting the help she needs, I want you to know this:

What you are going through right now is an exercise and a lesson in self-love and self-compassion, just like everything else in life.

If you love yourself, you are willing to give yourself what you need, even if it goes against what your ego (fear) wants, which is to stay stuck.

If you love yourself, you don't berate yourself for not taking one specific path to get to where your soul needs to be. You do what is necessary and you don't shame yourself for doing what is necessary.

When you love yourself, you follow your intuition. It always knows the right path, even if fear is doing everything it can to talk you out of it.

If you don't love yourself enough to stop judging yourself about this, then think of your love for the women who have come before you and the women who will come after you. Do you want to leave a legacy of silent suffering? Of being a woman who only allows herself a specific kind of help because you have arbitrarily decided that certain kinds of help are acceptable and others aren't?

Your soul knows what you need to do next to get the help you need.

Do what you need to do now. Love yourself now. Be an example now. You are deserving of it now.

To find out how to get the help you need, call me for a free phone consultation 973-769-2401

 

 

 

 

What to do When You Really Don't Want to Stop Being Negative

As humans, we have the gift (and sometimes curse) of a full range of emotions. Though we may believe that it would be easier to live life in a perpetual state of joy, that is not how we are designed, and sometimes when negative emotion strikes, we don’t want to do difficult work to pull ourselves out of it.

Sometimes we get hung up on “the principle of the thing.” Sometimes it just feels good to stand in our self-righteousness and be angry at a person or situation that has caused us to feel attacked or wronged. Sometimes we feel victimized and we want those around us to recognize and appreciate our suffering.

Ultimately, it comes down to this: sometimes we want to stay with the premise that we’re powerless because it’s so much more satisfying than admitting that we’re the cause of our own misery.

I know for me this tends to happen on a fairly regular basis.

 

Recently, a friend and I were going out to lunch and I was circling the crowded parking lot looking for a spot. After a few minutes, I finally located someone pulling out and I pulled up and turned on my signal to show that I would be pulling in.

I was about to start moving into the spot when a dude in a pickup truck cut me off and stole the spot from me.

“What are you doing?” I demanded as I rolled down my window.

“I was here first,” he replied with a shrug.

“No you weren’t, I had my signal on and you almost hit me!”

“No you didn’t,” he said and walked away.

I was furious. The spot was clearly mine and he stole it! When you have your turn signal on, it means the spot is yours! The guy came within inches of my car. He could have caused damage!

These thoughts were running through my head as I began to circle the lot and look for another spot. I angrily replayed the exchange between the guy and myself - this time coming up with wittier ways to chastise him. I thought of writing a clever note and leaving it on his windshield.

“Um, what are you doing?” asked my friend sitting next to me.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re clearly having an angry conversation in your mind. You’re making weird facial expressions.”

The interaction with the guy had ended but I had let it drag on in my mind. After all, I was right and he was wrong! He did something unfair and then didn’t apologize!

But really who was tormenting who now? I was tormenting myself. I was ignoring my friend next to me and letting the guy take up valuable time and brain space. I was robbing myself of my own peace and enjoyment of the time I had with my friend.

Here are some ways to deal when you really don’t want to stop being negative:

Stop judging yourself for being human. It’s ok to be mad at the world sometimes. Love yourself anyway and tell yourself that you love and accept all your human emotions.

That being said, don’t lose sight of the fact that no one creates your reality but you.

Journal. Write a letter to the universe in which you outline all of your grievances. Then pause and get still. Breathe deeply and listen to the universe’s response and then scribe what you hear. Chances are it will be unconditionally loving and chances are it will be exactly what you need to hear.

Call a trusted friend. Tell them you need a sympathetic ear and then unleash the beast. Sometimes validation is all we need to be able to let it go.

Ground yourself. Take your socks and shoes off and stand in the grass. Visualize yourself growing roots deep into the earth and remember that we are all connected and that is a good thing. Contemplate this truth as applied to the situation where you feel wronged.

 

If you would like to learn more about how to apply these mindset shifts to your own life, call  973-769-2401 to schedule an initial consultation or email at amy.beth.acker@gmail.com



 

Five Conversations You Need to Have With Your Gay Teen

Recently, a friend told me that he feels it’s much easier for gay teens to come out to their parents now than it was fifteen years ago when he came out to his parents.  

“However”, he went on, “most ‘coming out’ literature still does ignore the fact that it’s about sex.  Any time you come out, you’re also saying what genitals you’re into...and we all know, sex talks of any variety with parents are f--ing awkward.”

Five Conversations You.jpg

This conversation got me thinking about clients I've worked with over the years that have come out to their parents.  There are some families in which the ‘coming out’ conversation is the first and last discussion of the child’s sexual identity, and other families in which it’s a jumping off point for an ongoing dialogue.  

According to current statistics, between five and twenty percent of people identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.  If you’re a parent of a gay teen that recently came out, you are probably working through a huge variety of emotions right now from shock to grief to pride, all of which are understandable and expected, even if you have had strong suspicions for some time.

You may also have a seemingly endless list of unanswered questions that you’re not sure how to broach and very real fears about how this could negatively affect him as he navigates a society where he will encounter people that are unhappy about his sexuality.

At the same time as these questions are running through your head, your teen is likely going through some inner-turmoil as well. She is coming to terms with her own sexuality, which is difficult enough for any teen, but especially difficult when it carries the weight of potential rejection by the most important people in her life.

The “coming out” conversation can be tough for all parties involved, but the awkwardness is the very reason it shouldn’t end there. An ongoing dialogue is essential to keeping the lines of communication and making sure your teen gets the support he or she needs.

Here are some open-ended questions that can keep the dialogue going past the first conversation:  

  1. What are the best ways for me to support you right now?  Understand that your teen may or may not be able to articulate concrete ways that she needs your positive involvement right now, and that’s okay. This question is also an important statement that conveys your love for him and your desire to be there for him on whatever terms are most helpful. It is our job as parents to actively seek out ways to reinforce that we want our children to be who they really are at their most authentic

  2. What’s been happening in your life that made you decide to come out now? As my friend pointed out, telling a parent that you’re gay is always going to be awkward because you’re telling your parent not only who you are emotionally attracted to, but also what you’re sexually attracted to.

Any conversation with parents about a sexual topic is never going to be easy.  But this question can also be a jumping off point for a broader look at how your teen feels about communicating with you on important topics in general.

3. Who is supporting you and what has it been like for you at school?  Unfortunately, bullying    of LGBT teens is still rampant in schools and online. Coming out to friends can be even more difficult than coming out to family because a peer group is such a crucial part of a teen’s identity. It’s important to know what’s happening at school while your teen processes what’s going on.

Is he or she joining the Gay/Straight Alliance and being met with complete acceptance from friends or avoiding entire groups of people for fear of being harassed?  Oftentimes it’s some combination of both.  LGBT teens are at increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and feeling isolated or experiencing violence at school can be major catalysts.  

By having a good handle on your child’s peer situation, you will know if intervention such as getting the school involved or seeking the help of a therapist that can provide additional support.

4. Would you feel comfortable introducing me to a boyfriend/girlfriend? This is potentially awkward situation that can be made less awkward by discussing it way before it happens. It’s okay to be real and admit to yourself if there is some part of that scenario that might make you uncomfortable.

But like any relationship gay or straight, if a person goes into it with guilt and shame, not feeling that who they are is okay with their parents, the relationship can be filled with guilt and shame as well. That is a recipe for a dysfunctional relationship that no parent wants for their child.

5. What’s been making you proud of yourself lately? In the end, pride is about feeling good about who you are at your core, and getting your teen thinking and talking about what she feels are her best qualities and achievements is a surefire way to help nurture that feeling.

Being gay is one aspect of who your teen is as a whole authentic person. It’s a piece of her identity, but not the entirety of how she sees herself. It’s important to communicate that you still see your child as a whole person too and that you are proud because she’s your daughter, not in spite of the fact that she’s gay.


Coming out is a time of massive change and growth for a gay teen, and when one family member changes, the family dynamic can change too, leading to some growing pains. Keep in mind that it’s normal for those growing pains to happen, but that keeping the dialogue going can help you get through it together. No matter what, the message you want to convey is the same as it’s always been: that your love has always been and will always be unconditional.

How to Introduce Spirituality to Your Toddler

"Spirituality" is a term that generally refers to the values and meanings by which people live. It is a connection to something higher and bigger than the individual and also a connection to the deepest, most authentic parts of the individual.

Introducing these concepts to children from a young age is a great way to create a foundation of emotional literacy and self-awareness that will carry them throughout the life cycle.

Here are some ways to introduce spiritual concepts to young children:

We Are All Connected

Our words and actions have the power to effect others both positively and negatively. We live in a world with ecosystems, food chains, seasons, and moon cycles. Connectivity is in every aspect of our lives, and our connections to others and to the world help us to define who we are as individuals.

Notice the small and big ways this is true in your daily life.

For example, in my family, we try to spend as much time in nature as possible. This means heading out to one of several local parks every weekend, trips to the beach in the summer, and time in the grass after dinner.  We also read books and discuss the lessons or morals that we gleaned from them. We discuss how the characters might have felt and imagine how we would feel if we were in the same situation.

Create Family Rituals

Special breakfasts on Sundays, going outside and observing the full moon, and taking a yearly trip to the lake are all simple rituals that give us something to look forward to, ground us, and create a sense of meaning and belonging. They don't have to be fancy or expensive. The important thing is that they have a specific time and/or place and/or activity associated with them.

In our house, the kids are usually up by 5:30 AM and we like to go outside and look at the moon before breakfast. We discuss the weather and what phase the moon is, and it's a small fun way to discuss what's going on in the world around us that day.

To celebrate my family's Jewish cultural roots, I make latkes every year during Hanukkah, and every year, they turn out terribly. When fall hits, we make a family of scarecrows to put on the porch.

We don't do anything big or fancy or Pinterest-worthy, but we do things that reflect us, that are fun, and that remind us of our place in the larger picture.

Set an Evening Per Week Aside for Review, Planning, and Gratitude

As our kids are four years and eleven months, extensive discussion of the previous and upcoming weeks is something we have not really fully implemented at this time, but I look forward to building in the coming years. Here are some ideas I have for what this will look like:

  • Discuss what could have gone better in the previous week and why
  • Discuss what will make next week great
  • Review family goals
  • Review the family calendar and identify upcoming holidays and other things to look forward to
  • Affirm who you are as individuals and as a unit
  • Take time for gratitude and appreciation for the people, places, and things you love in your lives

For more information about how you can integrate more meaning and ritual in your family's life, call me at 973-769-2401 or email amy.beth.acker@gmail.com

 

 

 

How to Make Epic Progress on Your Goals Today

Goals are tricky things. They can feel overwhelming, terrifying, and even immobilizing. When we do manage to get started on them, we may find ourselves questioning whether putting in the time and effort to do something that feels hard or even painful is worth it.

For example, I had a goal to build a website that would be a resource and source of support for women, but as soon as the idea came to me, I immediately built a solid case for why it wasn't a good idea for me to create it. Here were just some of the excellent points I made to myself:

  • I am not tech savvy and learning to build a website might be hard and frustrating.
  • It would take a lot of time and I don't have a lot of time.
  • I might feel overwhelmed and I don't like to feel overwhelmed.
  • It might take time away from other things that are important like my family or my self-care, or my time watching Orange is the New Black.
  • I like writing but people might not like what I have to say and that would be disappointing. Then I might not like writing anymore.
  • I might work really hard only to realize that the whole thing was not a good use of my time.

But in the end, I felt that a website would be a creative outlet and a way to connect with and support other women. In other words, it would be a means of expression for my most authentic self.

I decided to implement some mindset shifts to help my new project develop and two weeks later my imperfect but good enough website was live!

Getting Super Clear

The first thing I did was to get really clear on what my goal was and why it was important to me for that goal to happen. One aspect of this was to think about the tangible results I was looking to achieve: a place to give my clients information about my services, a place to provide support and encouragement to women through my writing, a platform for other future creative endeavors like a webinar.

The more important aspect of getting clear, however, meant articulating to myself what I was looking to feel as a result of my efforts. For me, the answer was that I wanted to feel expansive, creative, excited, connected, and joyful. These are feelings I am always looking to feel more of in my life, and they serve as great motivation for me to try things outside my comfort zone.

The Journey and the Destination are the Same

There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.
-Mahatma Gandhi

How could I guarantee that in the end my website would give me the feelings I was seeking? By making sure to acknowledge and appreciate the opportunities for those feelings that existed in the journey to get there. For example, working with my clients, writing, spending time with my family all give me the opportunity to feel expansive, creative, and joyful on a daily basis. The path to the completion of my website could be all about frustration and anxiety, or it could be all about creativity, being led by my passions and desires, and having new, life-enhancing experiences.  The choice was always mine and mine alone.

Take the Smallest Step

I decided what the smallest step I could take without feeling overwhelmed and then took that step only. So I started by writing one article for my blog. To be honest, just that step caused me to feel frustrated and overwhelmed repeatedly throughout the process and despite my desire to focus on enjoying the journey, I did question multiple times whether it was worth the effort.

But each time I asked myself that question, I had to answer that it was because even if there was no other positive outcome to my work, I do truly love to write. This quote was always helpful to come back to during that time:

When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.
-Rumi

And I did. I was so proud of myself for writing that article that I truly felt like if I stopped there and never created the website, I would still have achieved something big for myself. But at that point I had gained momentum and wanted even more of those feelings, so I kept going.

Go With the Flow of Life

I'm at my best when I'm at my most authentic and going with the flow of life. I'm not at my best when I'm fearful, anxious, and stuck. When something feels hard, I try to remember to give myself grace. What this typically looks like is to stop resisting the "hardness" of a task, and instead question with genuine curiosity what's really holding me back in that moment.

It's natural to feel resistance to doing something outside our comfort zone. The trick is to stop fighting it and instead examine what that resistance is really trying to tell us.

It's similar to situations where my three-year-old is having a meltdown. If I respond with frustration, anger, or attempt to shut her down by wanting her to feel instantly better, she usually feels the need to justify herself even more and escalates to epic proportions. If I calmly acknowledge that I can see she's upset and having a hard time and that it's okay to be as upset as she needs as long as she needs to be, she usually regains her composure pretty quickly.

When I'm not honoring my uniqueness, it's easy to get discouraged. When I'm feeling relief because I'm reminding myself that I am enough and have something of value to offer others, I know I'm on the right track. I also try to remember that no woman's value comes from doing, it comes from love and self worth, and I am in full control of those things.

As I write this, I'm so glad I followed my intuition and inner-wisdom and created this website and blog. The feelings I'm having are expansive, creative, excited, connected, and joyful, and so it is exactly as I thought it would be.  

If you would like to connect to learn more about how I can help you to reach your goals, I invite you to give me a call at 973-769-2401 or email at amy.beth.acker@gmail.com

 

 

The Problem With 'Make Him Love You Forever'

I was recently asked by an old friend for my opinion on companies that run Facebook ads with promises like "make him love you forever" or "how to make a man fall in love with you." She said she thought she was being targeted because her status is "single." She wanted to know my thoughts on the ads and I agreed it would be a great idea for a blog post.

Side note - I love to hear suggestions for blog posts from my readers, so if you have one, don't be shy!

When you're single, it can be almost impossible not to constantly think about the ways your life would be better if you were in a relationship. You may feel lonely and left out and you probably started wondering a long time ago what's wrong with you that you can't find (or keep) a relationship.

If you're mid-20's or older, you've most likely been in at least one "major" relationship and so you know what it feels like to have someone loving and committed in your life which makes the contrast of not having it all the more intense.

We're hard wired to connect with others and seek out intimacy. Of course a company that promises to help you end the feelings of loneliness and isolation would sound intriguing: they are appealing to one of your greatest pain points and offering an easy solution. 

Full disclosure: I've been in a relationship with my husband for 10 years . That being said, one thing I can say for sure is that if you feel lonely, isolated, or stuck as a single person, you will continue to have those feelings as someone in a relationship.

The bottom line is that the areas where you are most unhappy in life are the areas where you are giving away your power.

If you are waiting until you're in a relationship to feel good again, you are giving your power away- in this case to an idealized but imaginary significant other. Inside, your subconscious will resist you getting into a relationship with someone else when at your core, you're not okay with yourself.

R1SCM3R58Y.jpg

The main objection I take with those ads is the word "make." It implies there is some secret formula to being in a loving, committed relationship and that you don't have it. It also implies you can control someone else's feelings, and of course, you can't. It's as if love is something that can be achieved, when the reality is that love is something that is received.

Here's the truth as I see it: our value as women doesn't come from doing, it comes from self-worth and self-love. When you criticize yourself, when you place your value on external factors like the love of someone else, you disempower yourself.

If you are single and wanting to be in a relationship, here are my suggestions:

  • Continue to put yourself out there but don't attach yourself to the outcome. I know this sounds easier said than done, but enjoy the process of getting to know new people with no expectations or strings attached.
  • Let it come from a place of wanting, not a place of needing. As you put yourself out there, take note of the things you enjoyed about each experience. For example, maybe you met someone who you don't really feel a strong connection with per se, but who you found has a great sense of humor. Put the sense of humor - or more specifically, how you felt around the sense of humor on your list. Use this time to really think about what your preferences for a partner in a future relationship are.
  • Enjoy the process. You cannot have a happy ending to a journey that has not been enjoyable. Though not every interaction with a potential mate will lead to a lasting relationship, the thing you are really seeking is union and connection. Focus on the ways those feelings already exist in your life and the feeling of gratitude and appreciation that they bring to you.
  • Realize that opportunities for connection and intimacy are always there and that it is entirely within your power to focus on them now.

Ultimately, you want a partner who loves you for who you really are, but unless you yourself truly feel that you're enough, your subconscious will never allow it to happen. Heal the parts that are critical, that believe you're flawed and in the meantime, enjoy the process of learning more about what you are looking for in a potential partner.

Paradoxically, as you focus on ways that true, passionate, intimate connection already exists in your life, especially with yourself, you will expand its potential in other areas of your life as well.