A therapist writing about evolving ourselves individually, relationally, and collectively. For exclusive content: www.deborahlara.com/subscribe

Part 1 of 4

A series on managing mental health in an integrative way.

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As humans, we are complex and multi-faceted. Many different things work against and in favor of our mental health and well-being. This includes our bodies, emotions, thoughts, relationships, social systems, environment, past experiences, stage of life, and sense of meaning and greater purpose.

In this 4-part series on holistic mental health and well-being, we discuss the many dimensions of mental health that lie beyond just our brain chemistry. In this first part, will be discussing the dimensions of our mental health that have to do with our inner individual lives. …

And become more confident and secure in who you are.

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1. Live By Your Own Principles, Values, and Standards

Living from your authentic self means living a life that’s your own and not driven by the standards, norms, and expectations of others. To develop true inner confidence and live from your authentic self, you alone must define what’s important to you, what you believe, and how you want to live.

If you the approval of others didn’t matter to you…

  • How would you actually want to live?
  • What would you care about?
  • How would you spend your time?
  • What would you believe in and express?
  • How would you present yourself?
  • What would you do for a living?
  • What would you buy or not buy?
  • How would you spend your free time? …

The key practice for better relationships and greater well-being.

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What Are Boundaries?

Boundaries are invisible psychological and emotional lines that we draw with ourselves and others as we interact with the world. They determine what we will or won’t do, and what we will or won’t accept from others.

Boundaries are not intended to shut others out or to become rigid and distant from others in our lives. Rather, boundaries are intended to help us manage our energy wisely, protect our survival, and promote our well-being and evolution throughout the course of our lives.

Boundaries Help Us Manage Our Energy Wisely

Managing our energy with boundaries is actually an act of humility because we admit to ourselves and to others that we are limited human beings. We wake up each day with a limited amount of energy to offer to the world. We cannot be everything for everyone all of the time. …

Living from your solid self promotes well-being and self-actualization.

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What Are the Pseudo Self and Solid Self?

We all have both a pseudo self and a solid self (also referred to as the true self).

The pseudo self is like the persona or mask that we wear for the world that’s based on its standards, expectations, and demands for who we should or shouldn’t be. The pseudo self seeks external approval and behaves in a way that’s going to be received well by others or at least not rejected.

The solid self, on the other hand, is that inner authentic core within us that’s based on the things that we truly think, feel, believe, and want for ourselves in our lives. …

Mindfulness Meditation isn’t about feeling blissed out. It’s about cultivating awareness of what normally happens outside of our awareness. It’s about observing our inner life as it unfolds. It’s about noticing automatic processes: impulses, sensations, emotions, conditioned thought patterns, reflexive behaviors. It’s about slowing ourselves down so that those automatic processes aren’t running the show.

This is the essence of awareness — a higher order process that allows us to see experience with more clarity, instead of letting it happen blindly.

Mindfulness Meditation is about getting to know ourselves more fully and deeply. This means that you might feel discomfort, because truth is often uncomfortable. So when you sit on that cushion and have to face your true thoughts and emotions, you likely won’t feel bliss. But you will ‘see’ more.

And that’s exactly how it should be. Welcome to your evolution.

And how to apply this knowledge to your personal evolution.

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I was a confused kid growing up. Academically, I was bright, often top of my class. But when it came to emotions and relationships, I was a mess.

When I reflect on the things I learned in school, I often question how many of those things are actually useful to me on a daily basis in my adult life. I wonder what my life would’ve been like if I had instead received comprehensive education on my mind, emotions, and relationships.

Some might argue that you can’t teach these things. At this point in my life, as a therapist, well-being educator, and prolific self-learner, I’d confidently say they’re wrong. …

Cultivating more emotional stability and maturity in our lives.

What Is Emotional Enmeshment?

Emotional enmeshment is when there are unclear emotional boundaries between ourselves and other people. Those other people are normally those we’re in relationships with or groups we’re a part of, such as our family, our inner circle, a community, or a team of some kind.

Because we are a social species, we’re wired to emotionally affect and be emotionally affected by other people. When emotional boundaries are unclear, we pass on our emotions or we take on the emotions of other people. Emotional states become contagious and spread throughout the group.

Evolutionary Context

From an evolutionary perspective, emotional enmeshment is an adaptive ability. We needed to take on the emotions of others to know how to help each other survive, and that adaptation has helped us get this far in our evolutionary history. …

Gatherings are a great time to learn, grow, and evolve.

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For those of us with difficult family dynamics, family gatherings can be a challenging and stressful experience. Through my personal lived experience and work as a therapist, I’ve learned that it helps to go into them with a learning and growth mindset. This means intentionally engaging in our own personal development process and practicing emotional maturity when we gather with our families.

Here are a few ways to do so...

1. Practice Awareness

As a social species, we tend to experience unconscious processes like emotions and automatic thoughts as we relate to others. …

Embrace a learning and growth mentality to survive them.

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Do you ever feel a sense of dread over having to gather with family for the holidays? Do you ever find it hard to set and hold healthy boundaries with them? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by their emotional demands or caught in the middle of their drama at the dinner table?

Ram Dass once quoted:

“If you think you are enlightened, go and spend a week with your family.”

That idea has always resonated with me.

Not all of us are lucky enough to experience the holidays as a cheerful and peaceful time with family. For people with difficult family dynamics, the holidays can be a time of high stress, sadness, and emotional exhaustion. …

2. They practice responding over reacting.

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Have you ever been around someone who seemed ‘wise beyond their years’? On the other side of that, do you ever notice how some of the ‘adults’ in our society are regularly having public temper tantrums more outrageous than 3-year-olds do?

You see, emotional maturity is not a given. It doesn’t just happen with age. It’s not innate to our species to be emotionally mature. It’s a lifelong pursuit that takes hard work and intentional practice.

But it’s life-giving. …

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