Many of us have heard that we are our own worst enemies. While we want to do and be the best, many times we fall short of our expectations. Many times we feel inadequate, yet we receive feedback from others who don’t perceive us as inadequate at all.
The reason we focus on our shortcomings is because of the negative messages we continually tell ourselves: you’re dumb, you’re lazy, you’re a troublemaker, you’re wrong, it’s your fault. Our lists can go on and on.
What is interesting about these messages is that we have been taught and trained to believe them—yet they are all lies. All messages that we are naturally born with are always honoring and respectful, yet we have been taught to believe these lies to the point we attempt to prove their validity every day.
Children are taught these messages directly and indirectly at a very young age by being told they  are bad, dumb, lazy, etc. Many people find it difficult to recognize where these messages come from because they may not have been directly spoken. Some of these messages may have developed from a glance, glare, or cold shoulder given that children interpreted in a negative way because they had no information that told them differently. As children grew, they took these messages on and believed them because they were coming in some fashion from the most important and intelligent people in the children’s lives: their parents and caregivers.
Many people find it difficult to believe that these messages are not true, which makes their path to recovery more difficult. These messages undermine opportunities to create positive change because they have been integrated into their lives to the point these are the only messages people can hear and know. When given the opportunity to hear and receive the true messages and positive qualities they possess, they tend to ignore and justify why these positive messages and qualities do not exist in them.
When a person is ready to work through these negative messages, it requires self-reflection and opportunities to explore the underlying feelings that get reinforced when they buy into the messages. When people can recognize the feelings, they can begin to work with those feelings to help the negative messages lose their power. This allows the underlying truthful messages to become more apparent.


Counseling has many theories and techniques available. The insurance industry, for example, has embraced behavioral counseling. Behavioral counseling embraces techniques to modify behaviors, and much research is available that demonstrates behavioral changes.

Experiential therapy is another approach that can be used to help modify behaviors. Additionally, experiential therapy has the ability to help a person explore and work through core issues when and if they are ready. While most counseling theories connect with the conscious or cerebral part of the brain, experiential therapy works to address both the conscious and subconscious parts of the brain. This is what sets experiential therapy apart and what allows the person to access core issues.

Experiential therapy also goes beyond talk therapy in that one of its goals is helping a person connect with what the body is saying or hiding. Many times a person is unaware of what their body is saying, yet the information the body shares has truth that wants to come out. Experiential therapy allows a person to reenact the emotional experience, then to embrace it and let it go. This is an important part of the process necessary to create long-term changes that many people desire.

Many techniques currently exist that are experiential in nature. Experiential therapy allows people to feel and connect with the hidden emotional truths that create chaos in their lives. Experiential therapy techniques include but are not limited to play therapy, art therapy, journaling, meditation, story telling, sand tray therapy, psychodrama, sculpting, and intuitive experiential therapy.

Many people share that they have attempted to figure out their problems for years with no success. Since they are intelligent, it makes sense that if they could figure it out, they would have already done so. Attempting to figure out the issues is tapping into the conscious part of the brain. To create the positive change they seek requires them to connect with their feelings as well, which is part of the subconscious brain.

Experiential therapy allows people to access both parts of the brain and  connect with the deeper issues that keep them from creating change. This is the reason it is such a beneficial and effective tool for change.


Codependency is a term that originally was used to describe family members of addicts, but it defines how nearly everyone interacts with others. Codependency is when we see the needs of others as more important than our own and, deep down inside, we may have some resentment about it. The resentment may be demonstrated as an expectation of acknowledgement for our sacrifice, sideways anger, passive/aggressive behaviors, martyrdom, and keeping score.
Codependency in relationships is destructive, and it is preventable.
To better understand codependency, it is important to recognize where it originates. We are taught to be codependent at a very young age, which makes it seem as though it is a pattern that is just part of life. Every time children are told by words, actions, or body language that their feelings need to be shut down (for example, “Please stop crying.”), those children are learning that their feelings do not matter and that their parents’ as well as other authority figures’ needs and feelings are more important than their own.
Every culture I have worked with to date has its own way of stifling feelings, which is the starting point for codependency. When children are very young, they wish to please their parents more than anything else because their parents are the most important people in their life. When parents ask or tell children to stop crying, the child wants to please their parents so they work to stop crying. By the time children are in elementary school they already have started to learn how to shut down their feelings, and by the time they are done with elementary school their feelings are shut down.
The purpose children shut down their feelings is to please their parents, who in many different ways with words, actions and body language teach children that their feelings are not important. They are also teaching that it is important to take care of their parents’ feelings by not feeling their own.
The problem is that even though children learn techniques to shut their feelings down, the feelings still exist because they are the core and essence of each child.
Deep down, children continue to have the feelings. They may think at some level they must be doing something wrong because they have these feelings that they are not supposed to have. The feeling of doing something wrong is where guilt originates.
At the same time they may think there must be something wrong with them because they have these feeling they are not supposed to have. This creates a sense of shame.
Interestingly enough, the core underlying issues with any addiction are guilt, shame, and codependency. The codependency becomes even more apparent when the addiction is removed.


Every time I attempt to write an article, I question myself. Have I used the right words? Will this make sense to others? Am I using proper grammar? Will the article be interesting to others? Have I written it in a fashion that others will understand?

With all these questions running through my head, I realize I want to write the perfect article. These questions prevent me from writing more or addressing topics I believe could be interesting, because they limit my creativity.

When we strive for perfection we are guaranteed to fail, because we can always see flaws in whatever we do. Perfection is not a natural trait, but is something we are taught.

Many people see perfection as a good thing because it can produce positive results, yet there is a down side to perfection as well. Perfection creates much unneeded stress in our lives due to the higher demands and expectations we place upon ourselves. This stress affects everything, including the people we love, because the stress comes out sideways as sarcasm, criticism, and anger.

We are taught to strive for perfection as children when we are criticized for not behaving, looking good, trying hard enough, or feeling our feelings when we are not supposed to. We also learn it when we are told we are wrong or even bad for what we are doing or thinking. When we receive these messages often enough as a child, we take them to heart and start to tell them to ourselves, reinforcing the message that we are inadequate and need to try harder. These messages we learned as children and tell ourselves are actually reflections of other people’s direct or indirect inadequacies that they saw in us.

Since these messages that drive the need for perfection are so engrained, they create a pattern that is difficult to break. When a person is ready to break the pattern of perfectionism, it takes a conscious effort to do something different. Many people that are perfectionistic do not see a need to change because these tendencies can prove beneficial in certain situations. Yet perfectionistic tendencies are destructive in relationships with ourselves and others, which is the typical reason for working on our perfection.

Many people are concerned that when they work on their perfection, they will lower their standards and this will not work well for them in their professional lives. When we work on our perfection, we can still maintain a high level of performance, without the unnecessary and destructive stress. This is where we evaluate when good enough is good enough and not try to push it even further.
In my case, I have found it helpful to let the words free-flow in the document and get help from my gifted writing friend, Kathleen, who polishes the writing. Then I can let go of my internal criticism, relax more when I write, and free myself to focus on what I have to say instead of questioning how I say it.


Are you your own worst critic? Many of us are, sometimes to the point of believing we have few, if any, redeeming characteristics. This negative outlook comes from all the negative messages we tell ourselves every day.
When asked where they first heard the negative message, most people indicate the message has come from themselves. The reality is that all negative messages are taught to us by another person or situation. We are actually born with no negative messages. All negative messages are lies that may have a small, twisted piece of truth attached to them. The power behind these negative messages is so great that it can be difficult to believe the truth: that we are good and have many fine qualities that our Higher Power has given us.
We are taught to believe these negative messages by things we have been told directly or indirectly, with words, body language, facial expressions, or looks. Some of the messages we have taken on may never have been what the other person intended, yet our perception of their negativity made them our reality. Since all our negative messages have been taught to us in some fashion or another, they can also be untaught.
To unlearn these negative messages, it is important to understand their origins and the feelings that drive them. It is equally important to be willing to follow through with change, even if it feels uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Every negative message has at least some level of guilt and shame associated with it, which is also common with any addiction.
While there can be many different underlying themes associated with negative messages, the most common are associated with intelligence, looks, behaviors, inadequacies, and blame.
When we are ready to explore and work through these negative messages that cause us to do many things we regret, it is important to understand where we first heard these messages. The purpose of gaining this understanding is not to find someone to blame, because when we blame someone, we remain stuck. Rather, when we find the origins, we are able to connect more deeply with the underlying feelings to embrace, feel, work through, and let go of them. When we are able to work through the feelings so they no longer negatively affect our lives, we have the freedom to move forward without the negative self-talk.
One major obstacle to working on and through these negative messages is the payoff we receive by continuing to use the negative self-talk. Many people question the validity of any payoff because they are able to see how hurtful the negative messages have been for them. They don’t see anything that could be considered a benefit, even a twisted or negative one. Some of the payoff is associated with the inability to do anything differently in their lives and not seeing how it could be better. Another payoff is being able to stay in what is familiar, even if we do not like what we are familiar with. Continuing to use our negative messages is also a way to embrace our fear or anger and feel justified.
While there are many payoffs in embracing our negative messages, there are many losses as well. Poor communication, failed relationships, lost opportunities, and even the lack of fun are a few losses that occur when we embrace the negative messages.
Unless the pain from the losses becomes great enough, most people continue to embrace and believe the lies associated with the negative messages because it is familiar and requires no work. Letting go of our negative messages does require a willingness to do the difficult work of change. Yet it frees us to embrace our many positive qualities and enjoy living as our true selves.


Blame is a powerful tool many of us like to use as a way of hiding our own inadequacies and shortcomings. When we blame another person, it takes the focus off of us and places it on the other person for a while. When we blame others, we are also closing the door to self-reflection and growth.
We are taught at a young age by our parents and other role models to blame others. We learn to blame through being blamed, controlled, and manipulated. We may be told that it is our fault or told we are wrong when we are not. We may hear controlling and manipulative statements like these: “If you would just listen to me, you would not have to do this,” or “Do what I say so I don’t have to punish you,” or “You made me do it.”
While we all have experienced blame and/or blamed others at some time in our lives as a way of protecting ourselves, the use of blame today helps us remain emotionally stuck and keeps us from moving forward with our lives. Many of us have a long history of blame, which has served us well as a shield and as a way to hide the truth. Blame is pervasive in our society today to the point we hear it happening every day on Capitol Hill. The president is blaming Congress, the Democrats are blaming the Republicans and the Republicans are blaming the Democrats along with the President. With all this blame, no one is taking ownership of the problem and it seems that no clear, healthy solution is on the horizon.
When people take ownership rather than blame, the truth is able to come out, there is no need to blame, and ultimately everyone has the potential to win. When we take ownership of our true feelings and actions, there is no need to lie, so our relationships shift and become healthier and our environment becomes a safer place. In business, when a company is willing to explore solutions rather than find someone or something to blame, the synergy created helps build teamwork and creates an environment for positive growth.
When it comes to emotional recovery in a relationship, one of the greatest obstacles is blame. Typically each person is wanting to be heard on how the other person is the reason for all the problems in the relationship. While we want the other person to change so the relationship can be better, we can only create that change in ourselves. What this means is that if we truly want change in a relationship, we must stop blaming and explore what we contribute that allows the negative aspects of the relationship to continue. When we look at the way we respond in the relationship, we can create changes in ourselves that change how others respond to us.


Most of us attempt to be as honest as possible in our daily lives, yet there is a part of us that creates a need to withhold, distort, and manipulate information or even lie outright. While it may not be our intention to do so, the urge to hide the truth is so great that these patterns of deceit prevail.

We were taught at a young age to lie when we were taught to hide our feelings. One way we were taught to hide our feelings was through bribery, such as, “If you stop crying I will give you ____.” We may have also been taught to hide our feelings because it was safer to hold our feelings in than to reap the wrath of a parent; for example, “If you’re going to cry, I’ll give you something to cry about.” We may even have been nagged into hiding our feelings with a glance, glare or a sincere message such as, “Please stop crying.” Whatever way we were taught, the outcome is the same—lying about our true feelings.

As children, we may have benefited from lying about our feelings. The question now is, “How does this behavior help us today?” It helps by not allowing another person to really get to know us, or for us to truly know ourselves. It also allows us to remain in what is familiar; it does not require us to change. When we lie, we typically get some type of immediate reward, such as shifting the focus off ourselves. Many of us have learned to lie as a way to protect and defend ourselves. What we need to examine is how this behavior is helping or hindering us today.

Hiding our true feelings by lying keeps us stuck and trapped. Many of us feel and believe we are trapped and without options. When we commit to hiding our true feelings, we are unable to recognize all the options that we may actually have. In every situation there are at least three options, and usually there are more than three. When we hide our true feelings, we typically are able to see one or maybe two options. Without someone’s assistance, we very rarely are able to see three or more options. The lack of options helps create loneliness, and the trapped feelings leave us with no clear solutions.

While most of us desire to be open and honest with our feelings, we do not know how because we have been trained to do just the opposite. When we are ready to move forward, the opportunity is within us. When we just listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us, we can gain clarity on what we are truly feeling. When we connect with our true feelings, feel them, and express them in a straight healthy way, we get freedom. Our bodies also become more congruent with our words and actions. When we connect with the congruence, we develop integrity in this area of our life and no longer have a need to lie.


The term “financial therapy” is beginning to create a buzz in the financial and counseling world. How financial therapy is defined depends upon who is asked. For the sake of this article, financial therapy is the process where a certified financial planner (CFP) and psychological professional (counselor) work together in the same session with a client for the purpose of helping the client recognize and work through emotional obstacles that prevent them from following through on healthy financial decisions.

The process for financial therapy starts by having the client present their financial information to the CFP. While the financial information is being reviewed, the counselor monitors the interactions to determine if any emotional stress or resistance occurs. Many times the client is unaware the emotional stress or resistance exists because they have learned early in life to hide, even from themselves, the feelings that create the resistance. When the emotional stress or resistance is presented, the response can be reflective. It typically tends to be more on the defensive side because, on a subconscious level, the feelings remain hidden.

To help the client explore the feelings, the counselor uses techniques that allow the client to emotionally connect with the feelings rather than being confronted with them. Many times when a client meets just with a CFP, feelings and emotions get stirred and are ignored. When they are ignored, they continue to be present on a subconscious level. Part of the client wants to ignore those feelings due to the discomfort they create. Ignoring these feelings is a way to pretend they do not exist, and it slowly shuts their intensity down. Since the feelings continue to exist, part of the subconscious will do whatever it can to keep them hidden—even if that results in making financial decisions that are not healthy or helpful.

A common frustration among CFPs is working with their clients to create a great portfolio, getting a verbal commitment from the client to follow the plan, yet having the client fail to follow through. Intellectually, clients are able to see the benefits of the plan, yet the underlying feelings prevent them from carrying out the plan.

The purpose of financial therapy is to help the client recognize these underlying feelings and emotions in a natural way, work through them to create emotional freedom, and ultimately create positive change in the client’s financial decisions.


In the counseling profession the term inner child is sometimes used to describe a person’s emotional truth. A less common term is trauma child. This is used to describe the subconscious part of the brain that remembers all the emotional trauma a person has experienced, in an attempt to prevent the person from having to feel that emotional pain again.

While the inner child resides in the limbic system of the brain, the trauma child resides in the insular cortex. The insular cortex is also known as the insula and works between the cerebral cortex (conscious part of the brain) and the limbic system (emotional part of the brain).

Emotional trauma is created any time a person has a painful emotional experience and is unable to validate, work through, and let go of the feelings. Emotional trauma can be as small as being asked to stop crying or as large as receiving post-traumatic stress from narrowly escaping death. As long as the feelings and emotions are not worked through and resolved, they become emotional trauma and reside in the limbic system.

The insular cortex recognizes that the unresolved feelings are present in the limbic system and also has been taught in many different ways that the feelings are not to be looked at or let out. Everything that the insular cortex is taught is external and is learned from interacting with the world and other people. While many people indicate they taught themselves these behaviors, when a person is willing to go deep enough at an emotional level, the response of hiding one’s feelings is always taught by others, either directly or indirectly. Most of what has been learned and is stored in the insular cortex is taught in the first five years of a person’s life.

Because the insular cortex has been taught to hide feelings, when it recognizes the limbic system is attempting to work through a feeling, it quickly creates a counter-response it has learned to hide those feelings again. Initially, this learned response meant to hide the emotional pain created relief and comfort from the emotional stress. Eventually, though, it can create more stress and discomfort. This pattern is the foundation for an addiction, in which the insular cortex plays a major part.

Since the insular cortex’s job is to find and/or create comfort for the person and it has been taught to hide a person’s feelings, emotional stress and tension get created. This is where the trauma child resides. As feelings are able to be worked through, validated, honored, and released, the energy the trauma child holds is able to be released.


Many of us have heard the term codependency and may be familiar with how it plays out in one’s life. Fewer of us are familiar with the term financial codependency.

Financial codependency occurs when we make the financial needs of others greater than our own financial needs. When we focus on the financial needs of another person, expectations and resentments develop on both sides. Financial codependency can be seen in many different ways in a person’s life.

Typically, financial codependency plays out with family members and can also be seen in relationships with friends or significant others. Among friends, it commonly takes the form of one person continually loaning money to friends and seldom getting paid back. With couples, one partner may concede all the finances to the other and be unaware of their financial status or situation. Typically parents give to their children and may continue this giving pattern well into adulthood. Some parents give until they die, which indicates how large an issue financial codependency can be.

Many parents realize they have made mistakes and feel guilty around the way they may have raised their children. As a way to compensate for the inadequacies in their parenting, they create ways to help their children financially to relieve some of that guilt. Different ways that parents may present financial codependency to their children include: giving money for no reason, buying as gifts items the children cannot afford, paying for cars, trips, or household bills because children cannot afford them, making sure they always pay for meals even when children can afford and want to pay, helping children through difficult financial tight spots they placed themselves in, paying for college, paying for a house, etc. While all of these can be supportive ways to help children financially, if the motivation is to enable, tension can be created and the opportunity for the child to learn and grow to become financially independent is lost.

When we attempt to help another person financially, we are denying them the opportunity to grow from their own financial situations. We enable them to rely on us financially. Unless the pattern of financial codependency stops, it becomes a financial enmeshment that is difficult to change.

Looking at financial codependency at a deeper level typically uncovers strings associated with the giving. Conditions like “I want you to love me,” or “Now you have to do what I say,” are a couple of unspoken strings associated with financial codependency.

To create freedom from financial codependency it is important to recognize the underlying motivation for the financial codependency and the underlying feelings that drive this behavior.

While we want the best for our children and will do whatever we can to give them what we believe will be the best for them, we actually are doing a disservice by enabling them. The best way to help our children is to teach them at a young age about money and the role it plays in their lives. As they learn and grow, it is our responsibility as parents to be mentors and supporters while they walk through their own financial obstacles.