How do you show love to others in your life?

About a year ago I took in a stray cat that had been visiting my yard.  She was small with a sleek black coat, little smooshy face, and very affectionate; I named her Panther. Within six hours of being brought into my house she gave birth to four kittens. While my initial plans were to find adoptive homes for her and all the kittens, she and two of the kittens have become permanent parts of my family.

Panther has some adorable ways of showing love. To her kittens, she is an affectionate mama cat, grooming, feeding and playing with her babies. She chases them around the house, pouncing on them from a hiding space before aggressively licking their faces. 

Almost every day she greets me by bringing me her favorite mouse toy and laying it next to me. She licks my hand and arm, rubs her face against me, and purrs loudly whenever I pet her.

For Panther, this is how she shows me love and gratitude and appreciation.

Cats and dogs express love pretty easy. They are clear and upfront with how they feel, and they show affection in ways that we can pretty easily recognize is love.

With humans, however, it’s not always so easy. Sometimes we’re pretty good at hiding our feelings of love. Or we think we are clearly expressing love through our actions, but our partner doesn’t always recognize it in the same way.

 

How do you show love to the people in your life that you care for?

What ways do you recognize people in your life show you love?

 

One difficulty is that we most likely recognize and express love in different ways from others in our life.  For some people, the most powerful way to express love is through direct expressions… telling your partner “You mean the world to me” or “I can’t imagine my life without you.”

But this may not be how your partner recognizes love. They may have a different style that lights up their heart.  They may recognize love through affectionate touch (holding hands or cuddling while watching a movie) or kind actions (like when you do the dishes or get the car tuned up for them) or gifts (bringing home flowers or a thoughtful card).

The book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman really brought this concept of different ways to express and recognize love to light.

 

When was the last time you talked with your loved one about how to meet their needs, or how they can meet yours, around feeling loved?

 

A friend of mine who recently starting dating someone new shared with me that they have been openly communicating around how they recognize and show affection, love, and romance.  They each made a list of things they believe are romantic and shared with each other. What an amazing way to share your needs with your partner!

 

My challenge to you this week is to open up a conversation with a loved one in your life the ways you show and recognize love. 

  • Try telling your someone special: “I love it when you do _____ for me.” Or: “I really feel your love for me when you take the time to ____.”
  • Ask them directly “How can I show you that I love you?”
  • Or you can make it more playful by each making a list and trading with your partner about how you recognize their love and affection. Then, try putting into action the items on their list.

 However it comes about, either direct or playful, the conversation around how you show and recognize love will strengthen your connection with your loved ones. Find the courage to be vulnerable in love, it’s worth it.

Adriana

 

 

Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento area therapist specializing in helping people lead authentic lives.  Adriana is most passionate about supporting individuals explore their gender and sexuality, and advocating for the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway ‪50 at Sunrise Blvd. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call ‪(916) 547-3997 or email adriana@adrianajoynertherapy.com.

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Changing the 'Spotlight' of your Perspective

Bear with me for a minute and try this:

Visualize a spotlight shining on a stage during a play.

Imagine it tightening its beam to a narrow stream and only lighting up one small part of the stage (perhaps one actor or one part of the set).

Now imagine the spotlight beam widening so that it’s encompassing and lighting the entire stage.

Play around with the lighting in your imagination. Shift the spotlight beam from one part of the stage to another. Focus on one person or the entire cast. Move from high to low, left to right, narrow to wide beam.

Awesome! Thanks!

I’ve been thinking about spotlights a lot lately, in a figurative sense. About how we get so focused on one part of our experience that we forsake the rest of the ‘stage’ of our lives. There are times when this is adaptive, but for the most part, I think we as humans overlook some pretty amazing stuff when we are focused on just one small part.

If we are aware of where we focus and shift our attention (our spotlight), we can use it to our advantage.

When we are experience pain, be it physical or emotional, our spotlight tends to focus on that painful area, on the experience of suffering. The focus remains constant because the pain is intense. As time goes on, the pain takes up more and more of our focus until it’s dominating our experience.

You may have experienced this with physical pain from an illness or injury, emotional pain from a breakup or loss of a relationship, with depression, or from many other reasons. Even Mondays become the negative experience we focus on. How many times have you focused your energy on how negative the day is going to be just because it’s Monday?

In situations like this, where you’re focused on the unpleasant experiences or pain, try expanding your spotlight to incorporate your entire life (your stage).

Being able to integrate the positives with the negatives (seeing that we can be uncomfortable and still have positive joyful experiences) can help you shift out of the “life sucks” mentality to “life is pretty amazing”.

We can also tighten the spotlight and focus it on one area, one experience, when it’s adaptive for us.

There may be times you find that you’re feeling all over the place emotionally. You’re thoughts and feelings may be bouncing around. Maybe you feel excited and happy one moment, worried and anxious the next.

Here’s where the magic begins. Shifting and tightening the spotlight beam on a positive area of your life can help you settle and alter your mindset.  This focus can help you pay less attention to the extraneous stuff that doesn’t need attention. You and I both know worrying about something you have no control over does you no good. Shifting away from the worries and focusing on something pleasant, even if it’s small, can help you place intention in an area that will help you and be adaptive for your mindset.

Last week, I wrote about ways to integrate and shift your thoughts, feelings and actions to manage your self-doubt. This spotlight technique works to control self-doubt too!

I’m going to stick with the example I used last week about doubting your parenting abilities while your toddler is throwing a tantrum.  What about widening the spotlight to incorporate all the amazing areas of your life: the times you feel confident and strong as a parent, the joy you feel when your child laughs, the successes you feel at work, the contentment you feel in your relationships? Blending and incorporating the positive enjoyable feelings with the self-doubt can dilute the power the self-doubt has and balance it appropriately.

One of the best ways to start getting more in tune with how you are experiencing your world (and where your spotlight is focused) is through mindfulness. Interested in reading more about mindfulness? Check out these posts I wrote here. If you’re ready to dig in deep and explore and create change in your life, contact me by calling 916-547-3997 or clicking here for a free phone consultation.

 

Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento Area therapist specializing in counseling for people healing from painful life experiences and traumas, and gender support for those within the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd.  For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email adrianajoynermft@gmail.com.