Darla Romano, M.F.T.

~Finding Freedom Blog~

Finding Common Ground

February 11, 2017
After the election of Donald Trump, many of my clients came in shocked, upset and afraid.  Apparently the voices of pain, anger and hardship of many people in the red states felt largely ignored by the politicians of both parties and they decided to choose the “populist” businessman to be their president.  It left many of us on the West Coast scratching our head in dismay. Trump said many racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Islam, xenophobic and hateful rhetoric during his campaign, but it does not mean that all people who voted for him feel the same way. However, unfortunately, there are certainly individuals and groups that are openly expressing and acting out those sentiments.  So how do we find common ground as citizens of our country?  How do we heal the breach of trust and respect that has diminished between relatives, friends and colleagues? 

As we probably all know, when two people are angry and pointing fingers at one another, any attempt at conversation can quickly derail.  None of us like feeling misunderstood or made to feel wrong by our partner, boss, family member or friend. Usually we feel defensive or angry and want to fight back or get revenge. Our  pain is real and often we retreat and repress our feelings until they explode in a rage at a later date.

It is more constructive if we are willing to listen to each other’s pain and fear and anger, even if we disagree.  Can we practice being curious, ask questions and not take it personally? Are we willing to pause and reflect on our own biases and discrimination?  Are there people we scapegoat with our attitudes and beliefs?  It is easier to point the finger at others than to see our own inherent prejudice or religious judgements. 

It can be even more difficult if we feel threatened.  Fear triggers the limbic system in our brain which means the amygdala is aroused and goes into “fight or flight.” So we also need to practice calming down before we respond with feelings or statements that will add fuel to the tension already crackling in the conversation. Including a practice of going a bit slower, paying attention to our inside landscape to know when we are triggered, and allowing more quiet to guide our actions can all be extremely helpful in these challenging times.

It also helps to remember we are all in this together and the web of life is interdependent.  Start by practicing self-compassion for your own efforts, especially when it is difficult, and begin to extend that kindness to others around you.  Resisting and judging the other person is not a good way to create change.  Stand for what you believe in, your values, and continue to speak their importance in respectful tones.  Be willing to hear others and ask them to hear you. Pause and breathe often. Go slowly with love whenever possible.  Real transformation requires more humility, less self-righteousness and lots of patience whether in our marriage, with relatives or in our country.
 

Why Facing Fear Can Help Relationships

February 11, 2017
The word mindfulness has become a familiar word in our culture.  Being mindful gives you awareness about what is happening in the moment.  Am I feeling hot or cool?  Comfortable in this chair?  Focused or distracted in my work?  Relaxed or tense in my relationship?  Our observing mind can give us lots of information to guide choices.  And so why would being mindful of our fear help us in our relationships and life?

Tara Brach gives three important reasons in her workshop, “Facing Fear to De-...

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Choosing to Change First

April 21, 2015
I remember how powerful it was to learn in one of my trainings that it really only took one person to take the first step to change an unpleasant dynamic between a couple.  That shocked me on two fronts.  First, I was hearing that I had the power to affect change in our relationship even when I felt my partner was behaving badly.  Secondly, I didn’t have to focus on trying to get HIM to be different, I could just change my own behavior.  Suddenly I felt more hopeful.  The ball was in my cou...
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Creating a Secure Relationship

January 20, 2015

The new year invites new beginnings. And each day invites us to choose again.  How do we continue creating a secure and mutual relationship with our partner over the months and years?  Can I remember my best effort will bring us both comforting rewards? 

Stan Tatkin, PsyD., in Wired for Love, suggests we get to know who we are; our background, and how we are wired, so we can each take responsibility for our reflexes.  Secondly, Tatkin says it is important for each partner to know the other;  ...
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Moving Beyond Power Struggles and Blame

October 30, 2014
Do you want to be happy or "right?"  Are you willing and open to learning or do you act as if you "already should know?"  These are two questions Dr. Julia Colwell asks when she teaches about essential relationship skills. Your responses to the above two questions will influence how frequently you engage in power struggles.  Power struggles emerge from reactive fighting and defending ourselves.  We all know this experience.  We are human.  Our feelings get triggered around our differences and...
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Dancing With Venus and Mars

October 24, 2014
Many of you have heard of the popular guide to understanding the opposite sex, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, written by John Gray nearly 15 years ago.  I remember initially thinking, "Oh, come on, isn't this a bit simplistic and gender biased?"  Now we have neuroscience to confirm much of what John Gray has written.  Our hormones play a HUGE role in affecting how our brains work and what each gender needs to create intimacy in the relationship.  Following are some research findings...
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Brain Science and Self-Discovery in Relationship

April 16, 2014
I will be married thirty years this summer, the same number of years I have been a licensed marriage and family therapist.  In three decades, I have made many discoveries about relationships in both my personal and professional life.  During the last two months, I have listened to a weekly online video event, “Deepening Intimacy," hosted by Tami Simon of Sounds True, who did fourteen interviews with relationship experts.   It is an excellent series, and you may want to listen to some of the...
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Embracing Vulnerability

February 27, 2014
We live in a vulnerable world with lots of uncertainty, discomfort and pain.  This same world also includes lots of joy, love and happiness.  All of us experience some of both, but most of us think something is wrong with us when we can’t avoid or control the “hard” stuff in life.

We all seek connection with others.  For connection to happen, though, we need to have the courage to be vulnerable and share who we are.  According to the researcher, Brene Brown, most of us struggle with bein...
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Self-Compassion and Happiness

December 11, 2013
Many people who extend caring, kindness and compassion toward others, often have difficulty extending compassion to themselves.  Sound familiar?  The good news is we can learn to be kinder to ourselves.  It is possible to help train our brain to respond to our difficulties or suffering so we feel happier rather than more miserable. Health psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, spoke about the brain studies showing the importance of self-compassion and how it helps us succeed at our goals and increase...
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Self-Compassion vs. Self-Criticism

November 14, 2013
How do we recover from feeling bad about ourselves regarding our mistakes, our rejections, limitations, or fights with our partner or friends? Finding freedom means choosing to respond with greater self-compassion or kindness rather than beating ourselves up with self-criticism and judgements.  This is very difficult to do in our culture that says motivation requires self-criticism.  Self-compassion gets confused with self-pity, fear of weakness, self-indulgence or lower standards.  As indivi...
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