Why Are We Lying to Therapist: Understanding the Dynamics

lying to therapist

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Did you know that a study found over 90% of therapy clients are lying to therapist at least once? We often craft narratives that stray from the truth, masking our insecurities, or diminishing our struggles. Such dishonesty might seem benign, yet it hampers the very core of therapeutic work designed for our personal growth. While we may shield ourselves with these half-truths out of fear of judgment or embarrassment, understanding and confronting this dynamic is crucial for genuine healing.

In this article, we explore the delicate threads that entwine our words with secrecy in the therapy room. We’ll examine the common reasons why we might find ourselves saying “I lied to my therapist,” delving into the complexities of shame, the urge to please, and the instinct to avoid pain. Recognizing the role of trust in the therapeutic relationship is fundamental, and throughout this article, we aim to empower you with the courage to embrace truth-telling for a more fulfilling therapeutic experience.

Lying to Therapist

When we step into the therapy room, we carry with us the weight of our stories, the ones we tell ourselves and the ones we share. Yet, the fear of judgment is a towering barrier for many of us, often leading to moments where we find ourselves lying to our therapist. This fear can manifest in various ways:

  • Hiding Behind Falsehoods: It’s not uncommon to pretend to agree with the therapist’s suggestions or to deny our insecurities. We might even minimize our suffering, trying to present a more composed version of ourselves. This act of self-censorship stems from a fear of being criticized or feeling embarrassed.
  • Coping Mechanisms: For some of us, lying is a familiar coping mechanism. It’s a way to maintain a positive self-image or manage transference and countertransference issues, where feelings towards the therapist or vice versa influence our willingness to be truthful.
  • Building Trust: Trust and rapport are cornerstones of the therapeutic relationship. If they are lacking, we might withhold information or lie as a defense mechanism. It’s crucial to remember that therapists are trained to help, not judge. Admitting a lie can be a significant step towards building a stronger connection with your therapist.

    Addressing the fear of judgment requires courage and a commitment to honesty, even when it feels uncomfortable. If a technique doesn’t resonate with you, it’s important to be forthright with your therapist. And if the fear of opening up persists, it may be time to consider finding a new therapist with whom you can build a more trusting relationship.

Shame and Vulnerability

In our journey of self-discovery and healing, we often encounter the heavy cloak of shame that can lead to vulnerability in the therapeutic setting. This shame, a potent and sometimes paralyzing emotion, can significantly increase the likelihood of llying to your therapist. It weaves a complex web where outright lies, secrets, or even lies of omission become a shield against exposing our deepest insecurities and perceived flaws.

Here are some insights into the dynamics of shame and vulnerability in therapy:

  • Types of Dishonesty: Clients may resort to various forms of dishonesty, such as minimizing facts, offering half-truths, exaggerations, or white lies. These actions are often driven by a fear of judgment, embarrassment, or the instinct to avoid confronting difficult emotions.
  • Confidentiality and Repercussions: A common misconception is that being open in therapy could lead to negative repercussions. However, therapist-client confidentiality is designed to protect the things shared in therapy, creating a safe space for honesty and growth.
  • The Impact of Lying: While it may seem like a protective mechanism, lying to a therapist can undermine the therapeutic relationship and hinder progress. It’s important to foster an environment where clients feel safe to be vulnerable and truthful.

    To counteract the effects of shame, developing self-compassion is crucial. It allows clients to accept their experiences without self-judgment, promoting honesty in therapy sessions. Counselors play a pivotal role by understanding the impact of shame and guiding clients towards acceptance and self-compassion, which are essential for a truthful and healing therapeutic relationship.

Desire to Please the Therapist

In our quest for self-improvement and healing, we sometimes find ourselves wanting to present our best selves, even to those who are there to help us without judgment. This desire can lead us to say things that aren’t entirely true, as we navigate the vulnerable space of a therapist’s office. Here’s a closer look at why the need to please might lead us to be less than honest, and how we can move past this to foster a more effective therapeutic relationship.

  • Seeking Approval: We may find ourselves lying to our therapist to avoid disapproval or to gain their approval. This could be due to an ingrained need to protect our ego, avoid conflict, or simply a misunderstanding of the therapeutic process.
  • Addressing the Issue: To overcome the urge to please, we can:
    • Acknowledge our shame and pinpoint where it surfaces in our body.
    • Practice self-compassion to quiet these feelings of inadequacy.
    • Embrace the courage to speak our truth, even when it feels daunting.
    • Provide our therapists with honest feedback, which can foster closeness and make it easier to maintain honesty moving forward.
  • Understanding the Consequences: It’s important to recognize that deception, even with good intentions, can have dire consequences. In high-risk populations, such as those who have experienced trauma or those dealing with suicidal ideation, not sharing the full picture can mean missing critical information necessary for survival. Therapists are equipped to handle these truths and are there to build a trusting, honest relationship with their clients, ensuring they receive the support they need.

Avoiding Painful Emotions

Avoiding painful emotions is a common reason we might find ourselves lying to our therapist. It’s a protective mechanism, shielding us from having to confront the discomfort that comes with vulnerability. Yet, this avoidance can lead to a host of negative outcomes, such as:

  1. Missed Opportunities for Growth: By not fully disclosing our feelings or the intensity of our experiences, we miss the chance to delve deep into the root of our issues, stalling our personal development.
  2. Strained Therapeutic Relationship: Therapists rely on honesty to provide effective guidance. When we say things like “I’m fine” or “I’ve never experienced that before,” we prevent them from understanding our true state, which can strain the relationship.
  3. Prolonged Suffering: “I’m taking my medication as prescribed” might seem like a harmless lie, but it can lead to prolonged suffering by preventing necessary adjustments in our treatment plan.

    Research indicates that a staggering 93% of people lie at least once during therapy. The lies can range from small omissions to significant fabrications, such as hiding romantic feelings towards the therapist. While therapists may not always detect these falsehoods, the lies can lead to hindered personal growth and less authentic relationships, both within and outside the therapy room.

    To foster a more effective therapeutic process, it’s important to:

  • Cultivate Open Communication: Be honest about your feelings and fears. This honesty not only helps your therapist to assist you more effectively but also encourages you to practice open communication in other areas of your life.
  • Build a Comfortable Relationship: Take the time to find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable and who listens to you, as this is foundational for developing trust and being vulnerable in therapy.
  • Reflect on the Purpose of Therapy: Remember that therapy is a space for healing and growth, not for judgment or punishment. Embracing this can help reduce the impulse to hide behind lies.

    By addressing the reasons behind our dishonesty and working towards a more truthful dialogue, we pave the way for more authentic relationships and a more fulfilling life.

Misunderstanding Therapy’s Purpose

In our therapeutic journeys, we sometimes find ourselves grappling with the true purpose of therapy, which can inadvertently lead us to be less than truthful. A fundamental misunderstanding of why we’re there—to foster self-awareness and growth—can result in a range of deceptive behaviors. Here’s a closer look at the dynamics at play:

  • Navigating the Therapeutic Relationship: Many of us may not fully understand that the cornerstone of therapy is a candid relationship with our therapist. When we misunderstand therapy’s purpose, we might minimize our problems or withhold certain truths, not realizing that this hinders our progress.
  • The Spectrum of Deception: The act of lying to a therapist can manifest in various ways, including:
    • Minimizing issues to appear more stable or in control.
    • Omitting details that we fear may lead to judgment or discomfort.
    • Altering the narrative to avoid revealing our true selves due to fear of punishment, a desire for autonomy, or for secondary gains like sympathy or extended sessions.
  • Subtle Cues of Dishonesty: Therapists are trained to pick up on subtle indications of deception, such as changes in voice pitch or speech rate, which can signal that a client might not be fully forthcoming. Recognizing these signs can help therapists address the underlying issues that lead to dishonesty.

    To foster an environment of trust and openness, it’s crucial to set a tone of tolerance and workability within the therapeutic space. Managing lying in therapy involves complex, individualized decisions—but the goal remains the same: to nurture a relationship where honesty is the foundation, allowing for true healing and growth. This approach not only benefits the therapeutic process but also sets a precedent for how we interact in our personal relationships outside of therapy.

Lack of Trust in The Therapeutic Relationship

In the delicate fabric of the therapeutic relationship, trust is the thread that holds everything together. When this trust is compromised, particularly by deceit from the therapist, the effects can be detrimental. Here’s why honesty is paramount in therapy and how clients can navigate trust issues:

  • Therapist’s Honesty: Therapists must uphold a standard of honesty, being truthful, and consistent in their interactions. Evasion or deflection can quickly erode the trust that is essential for progress in therapy. If you, as a client, sense any dishonesty, it’s imperative to address these trust issues openly to resolve them and maintain the integrity of your therapeutic journey.
  • Navigating Power Dynamics: The power differential in the therapist-client relationship means that any lying by therapists is not only disrespectful but manipulative. It takes advantage of a client’s vulnerability. If you find yourself questioning your therapist’s honesty or feel that lying is a deal-breaker, it may be time to seek a new therapist who aligns better with your values of openness and integrity.
  • Clients’ Self-Protection: Often, clients lie as a coping strategy to shield themselves from shame. Therapists should work to help clients understand their reasons for lying and suggest experiments for more flexible interaction. It’s about creating a space where clients can discuss their dishonesty without fear of rejection, understanding that lying doesn’t destroy therapy—itis the therapy. It’s a chance to learn new ways of interacting and to experience the unconditional care that they are often seeking.


Over the course of this article, we’ve unveiled the complex motivations that can lead individuals to conceal the full truth within the therapeutic setting. From the fear of judgment and the pressure to please, to the avoidance of painful emotions and a lack of trust, each factor plays a crucial role in the intricate dance of honesty and deceit. These dynamics not only hinder the therapeutic process but also impede our own potential for growth and self-discovery.

Acknowledging these barriers is the first step toward cultivating a therapeutic environment steeped in trust and openness. As we move forward, let us strive to embrace vulnerability and truth-telling within our sessions. Such courage lays the groundwork for genuine healing and paves the way for a more profound understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

If you’re ready to explore life coaching, I would be honored to help. You can read more about my practice or call/text me directly at 240-587-7854.

The Uplifting Story Of How I Found Inner Peace

a life of purpose

In this article, I share with you an interview by Jan Bowen who speaks with me about my life’s journey and how I came to be the person I am today. I share about my childhood influences, the curves my life has taken over the decades, and the influences which have shaped me to be who I am today.

You’ll learn that many of the topics which I write about have their origins in my life’s experiences. I don’t write from theory, I write from my own struggles and self-learning.

Finding inner peace is possible because I have found my inner peace. Read along and you’ll understand the evolution of my thought and insights. You too can find your inner peace, and I feel honored guiding you to that peace.

Jan Bowen: Well, as you may or may not know, on this show I talk about how people found their purpose, and how they live the life that they do. With you, it’s so intriguing to me because the name of your website is exactly what I want to talk about. The website that Chris has is lifesjourneyblog.com. Chris, what was your life journey to the point that you are now in your career? What brought you here?

Chris Shea: That’s a long, winding journey. In hindsight, all good. But the somewhat short of it, I spent most of my career up in the Baltimore area, and I was involved in doing counseling work plus administration work. I was honored to run in-patient medical treatment facilities. We specialized in drug and alcohol treatment, but we were in-patient medical. I really enjoyed being an administrator because the way I looked at that is I was able to help a lot of people. Even though I didn’t always have a caseload, it was still very rewarding for me. These were always nonprofits, so that was something that was important to me, giving back to the community. But, I’m a type “A” person. I love to always be busy. I’m still very busy. But back then, the busyness began to take over my life. In the busyness, everything else seemed to go off to the wayside.

Chris Shea: Work and career, titles, prestige, all of that became more important. As my career took off, I got into speaking at national conferences and started writing and getting published in journals, and I found myself pretty high up in my field as far as being known in what I was doing. As rewarding as that is, it brings a lot of stress and anxiety if you’re not keeping up a balanced life and taking care of yourself, neither of which I was doing. For me, the big change came when I started to realize I needed to slow things up a bit. An opportunity came here down in Leonardtown (where Chris currently lives), and I thought, “Maybe this is a good time in my life to start different, to get away from the city, get away from all that and just do something totally different.” That’s when I picked up the campus ministry job, which was awesome, and I loved every minute of that.

Chris Shea: The issue for me came in when the academic year ended, and I now have three months off. For me, the thought of that was, “Hey, this is awesome. I got three months paid vacation basically. Way to go.” I’ve never had three months off before, except for the times that I was laid off. Then I was off, but that was different. After getting close to about week two of being off, that’s when it hit me, and things started going downhill for me at that point because the type “A” in me, the person who has been going from corporate world and all the stressors that had, and all the pressures that were on me … that was gone. There was nothing. I kinda hit that brick wall of this nothingness, of what do I do? I kind of was almost in a depression type stage. It wasn’t fun. I needed something to do. I spent a good number of weeks through this struggle in eventually finding mindfulness and finding meditation again, and beginning to consciously slow myself into looking more at who I am.

Chris Shea: As I did that, I decided to do some journaling. But instead of doing journaling in some diary or folder, I decided to do a blog. Why not? I’m on a computer all the time. That’s really where Lifesjourney came about, was a blog more so as a public diary, more as a journal. Really, it was just for me to have some outlet. And from there, that was probably what, six-ish or so years ago? From there, we now have what I’m doing. Now it’s a private practice, I’ve authored some books, doing speakings, I now have a podcast. It’s grown into what it is today, and it keeps me extremely busy. But the difference is, I’m busy intentionally. What I mean by that is, I’m only doing what it is that I feel I’m able to do, and I’m trying to do it in a way that’s still healthy for me. I’m still trying to practice those daily routines of the meditation and taking care of self, and looking at self. Very different than what I was doing before. Long and short of it, here I am.

Jan Bowen: Thank you very much for sharing all of that. There are lots of pieces in there I’d love to explore a little more. One, I think it’s really important that people hear that the path isn’t always smooth, it’s not straight, and it does have pitfalls.

Chris Shea: Yes, it does. Yeah, definitely if somebody thinks that, “I can go from point A to point B in a straight line,” you are gonna end up with having stress and anxiety when you find out that that straight line is gonna become very curved. But that’s okay. In hindsight, those curves are really what got me to here. Had this been more of a straight line for me, we probably wouldn’t be talking, I probably wouldn’t be in this town. I’m glad for the curves.

Jan Bowen: Yeah, and from your perspective as both someone who experienced it and as a professional, as a therapist, you have both sides of it, so you really speak from a powerful position which I think has tremendous impact and value in sharing as well. There’s so many things I’m now trying to remember. From the outside, as you were talking, I was thinking, “To some people, it might not look that different. You were speaking before, you were at the top of your career before when you were in Baltimore.” So if somebody missed all those middle years and saw you online, and saw you had maybe a different name to a website instead of working for a firm, or “Oh, Chris started a podcast,” they might think nothing was really different, you’ve just grown.

Jan Bowen: All those middle pieces are really instructional, yeah. It’s interesting that so much happens from within.

Chris Shea: Exactly. Yeah, form the exterior, if I listed what my day is like, it’s going to seem to somebody, “Well you’re overwhelming yourself and isn’t that what you were doing?” But yet, it is what works on the inside. It is that intentionality, and to me, the part of that mindfulness. Before, it was just do, do, do, regardless of what the impact is for me. Now it’s, “Yes, I’m gonna be doing a lot, but I’m still trying to be aware of what is the impact to me and family when I’m doing all of this.” It’s not the haphazard, “Let me just do everything.” I would say right now in this field, I’m just one of the fish. I’m not a topnotch person in the field. There are bigger names you would think of if you think mindfulness than my name, so that keeps me humble.

Jan Bowen: Did moving from a city like Baltimore to a small town affect your lifestyle and your path at all?

Chris Shea: It helped to slow me down. The pace is very different. The pace is much calmer. I think overall that helped in that, but it wasn’t a huge shift. Most of my college life was living in rural towns, so it wasn’t a complete unknown for me. But yes, I think overall it did have a part to play in where I am now.

Jan Bowen: The rituals, I’m not sure if you’ve called them rituals, but the routines that you follow of mindfulness and meditation and such are also what you talk about on your podcast, “On Finding Peace”. Was that the intention behind the podcast?

Chris Shea: Yes. The podcast has morphed over time as well. Originally, the podcast was to broaden the audience, my reach. What I was doing in the early days of the podcast, which still exists if people listen to them, they really consisted of taking my blog posts and putting them to audio, is really the simplest way to put it. I figured this way if you don’t have to read it, well maybe you have time to listen to it. But as I thought about it, to me I thought what would be more important, because it was important to my life story, what have other people done in their lives that we can learn from?

Chris Shea: What I focused the podcast mostly on is interviewing people who have found ways of either getting toward peace or obtaining peace, and I ask them to share with us what are some very practical ways that we can do that. It’s not a theoretical type podcast, but very practically, you went from this to this, so if I’m listening to a podcast, what can I do to go from that to that? I figure that’s how I learned, maybe others can learn as well.

Jan Bowen: I’m curious what you were like as a little boy.

Chris Shea: Oh, wonderful days that they were. I think I’m at that age now where I can look back and say, “Those were the simpler times.” But actually, it probably would be quite surprising because growing up, I was the shy kid. I was the one who stayed in the corner. I had a small group of friends, a tight group of friends, but small. Really when it comes to being outgoing, when it comes to doing a lot after school or things like that, that wasn’t me. I would go home, do my homework, grab some of my friends, and off we would go. But I was extremely shy. If you were to tell my younger self that one day you’re going to be speaking on national stages and doing podcasts and things like this, yeah that would’ve been foreign to me. That would’ve been, “There is no way that’s gonna happen, I’m not speaking in front of people.” Yes, younger me was very different from me.

Jan Bowen: What was the changing point, the turning point?

Chris Shea: Self-confidence, that was the change for me. The shyness had a lot to do with self-esteem. As I aged through my 20s and started actually being in a career, then a lot of that changed and I slowly … and I emphasize slowly … began to have more of self-confidence not only in me as a person but the self-confidence in me as a professional. When that shifted, I became more outgoing. This was probably always in me, I just wasn’t aware it was in me.

Jan Bowen: Yeah. It’s interesting, from what you’re saying, I’m observing the external, the job in your 20s was bringing out the internal. As you were describing your coming to peacefulness in later life, you once again went internally to find that peace. It juxtaposed, but nonetheless, I find the contrast interesting between the exterior and the interior. Yeah.

Chris Shea: I appreciate that reflection. I hadn’t really looked at it in those terms before, but yeah it really makes a lot of sense as I move into another phase in my life, age wise. It’s very interesting. Appreciate that.

Jan Bowen: How do you define mindfulness? I’m going into these specific questions, but let’s back up a minute. How do you define it?

Chris Shea: There are a lot of definitions out there. Really for me, mindfulness is living in the present moment, non judgmentally. Jon Kabat-Zinn, he emphasizes the non judgmentally. That’s where I’m pulling that piece from. But it is all about living in the moment. What I mean with the non judgmentally is just to accept what your reality is. Now, that doesn’t mean I can’t work on changing my reality if that’s something that I feel is necessary. But before I can look at a possible change in my reality, I just need to come to terms with and accept what that reality is. Instead of trying to lie to ourselves, trick ourselves, fool ourselves as to what we would like our reality to be and then live accordingly, that’s gonna bring on a lot of stress and anxiety.

Chris Shea: If we can sit back and just accept where we are, the good, the bad and the otherwise, then look at, “What do I need to do differently to improve my life.” We need to start on that basis of reality. Let’s just start with reality, even if you don’t like that reality or like to admit that reality. No, it is what it is, accept it, now what?

Jan Bowen: Thank you for the definition. That’s really helpful and important. The curved parts of your path, you mentioned one was not going through with the priesthood. Do you feel like all the curves contributed in some way and informed where you are now?

Chris Shea: When I look in hindsight, I wouldn’t be who I am today without those experiences. For me, it’s very important, and I try to help my clients with this as well, but very important to understand that we are who we are because of our past. Again, good, bad or otherwise. You could talk about a very bad childhood, or a bad past or whatever. Again, that’s the acceptance piece. That is what it is, but that’s also what has made you. If at this point in your life, you have a great deal of resilience … then yes I feel sympathy for you that you had to go through what you did, but you have built a resilience which is wonderful to have at this point. Particularly my time in the seminary really gave me a lot of the tools to be able to be where I am today. I think minus that, I probably wouldn’t have found the mindfulness piece. I wouldn’t have found that spiritual peace. I think I would’ve been strictly academic psychology with it, versus what I see as more human if that kinda makes sense.

Jan Bowen: I understand what you’re saying in that sense. Something is occurring to me. It’s not an exact analogy, but I can’t help but put these two thoughts together. The writer and thinker, Jack Kornfield, who writes a lot on Buddhism, I heard him speak once about some concept in Buddhism, and he was saying, “People always expect me to be really calm, and really laid back and really peaceful.” He said, “If you didn’t know who I was and you saw me on the street, you would think I was the most hyper guy. I’m a really high energy person.” I really enjoyed that because what I observe in general about some of these concepts like mindfulness, and meditation and such is I believe there is a bias in terms of the vision, that they’re all peaceful and calm. And yet to me, there’s a joy and there’s a lightness to them. There’s an energy around them, a silliness at times even.

Chris Shea: I completely agree because as I mentioned earlier, I’m all about trying to stay within reality, and I don’t care how much you’re going to practice Buddhism, Zen, any type of Christian meditations, I don’t care what it is that you do. Unless you have removed yourself and have become a monk, other than that, you’re living in this world, and this world is not going to stop because you are meditating or because you know some of these concepts. If you try to be in this world but live like that monk, people are gonna look at you as crazy, and you’re probably not gonna get anybody. Most of us recognize a monk, but not a monk in society. All that needs to be tempered with, be real and be true to who you are. All of these principles, whether it’s eastern or western, it makes no difference, they’re leading us down a path of finding peace. But as far as I define that peacefulness, we can be feeling many different emotions while still having that in our peace.

Chris Shea: Yes, I can act silly at times, and I can show my happiness and all of that with this sense of an inner peace, yet at the same time, I can go through periods of mild depressions, of stress, of anger. But that doesn’t take away an inner peace. That just means I’m human, and I’m reacting and responding to what’s going on in my life. I think the difference is how you do that. Am I intentionally responding? Am I aware of my response? Do I need to make changes? I think that peacefulness is that peace that allows me to reflect on what I’m feeling. I’m not just going off in anger, or off in depressions. I can consciously go into those feelings, act that way, and then begin to say to myself, “Is this healthy right now? Is this appropriate right now?” And then make changes if necessary. There is that intentionality, I think. Yes, I love that approach. I just think we need to be real. People will respond when they see you’re real.

Chris Shea: ‘Cause, if you go up on stage or go on a podcast like this, and you talk about these high ideals or seem to be having those high ideals, many people are gonna say, “I can’t do that.”

Chris Shea: But when they see that you’re real, I don’t think that takes away your ability to say, “Hey, I’m an expert in this,” or “I’ve got information to share.” I think actually people can come to you because, “Wait a minute, you’re real. You talked about all this, but I heard you get a little stressed over there,” or “Wasn’t that comment a little off in what you talk about?” And then you can say, “Well yeah, I’m human. Yeah. It is.”

Jan Bowen: Yeah.

Chris Shea: “But now, here’s what I’m gonna do about it.”

Jan Bowen: What do you do for fun?

Chris Shea: I love being out in the water, love being out in nature, love to read. Meteorology is a hobby of mine.

Chris Shea: Yeah, so there are outlets, and I encourage people to have outlets. But yeah for me, those are the things I’ve picked up over time, and that’s how I get out and have fun. There are some days or some evenings that I’ll say, “You know what? Forget the computer, forget my business stuff. I’m taking a hike, I’m going out on the water, I’m gonna read a nonsense book,” whatever it is. But I think that’s important to have those outlets so that there’s some diversity in your life, and you can relax.

Jan Bowen: In your words, what would you name as your top three values?

Chris Shea: The top three right off the top of my head would look at as being the most important would be honesty, and trust, and family. Those are all up there. Maybe not in that order, but those are the top three. But also looking at that, I would say … I don’t know if it’s necessarily a value, but it’s, “Can you be true to self?” And whatever that means for self. Again, you may not like who you are, or maybe you aren’t the best person at the moment, but can you at least be true to who you are, and be able to go from there? That’s something that I would value in another person, really respect in another person.

Jan Bowen: That’s wonderful. Is there anything that you’d like to say that I haven’t asked you?

Chris Shea: Know that it really is possible to find inner peace. Whether you believe that or not, it is possible. I’ve seen that in a lot of people, but I’ve seen it in myself, so I’m speaking from the experience. This isn’t just, “Hey, the theory says …” But no, I did it. People can do it. Just go with it, begin to believe in it, and yes, it’s possible.

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How To Find Your Inner Peace

Mindfulness find your inner peace

As a counselor and a life coach, it is unfortunate that I wasn’t provided any formal education to prepare me to use mindfulness. But, after becoming personally aware of mindfulness and how it led me to find my inner peace, I made it my mission to teach people how to find your inner peace.

Historically, the arrival of mindfulness to the US is attributed to Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Kabat-Zinn was first introduced to the philosophy of Buddhism while he was a student at MIT. Later, in 1979, he founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he adapted Buddhist teachings on mindfulness and developed the Stress Reduction and Relaxation Program. He later renamed the program “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” (MBSR), removing the Buddhist framework and eventually downplayed any connection between mindfulness and Buddhism, instead putting MBSR in a scientific context. To this day Kabat-Zinn downplays the connection of mindfulness to Buddhism, yet I feel his downplaying of Buddhism is a means of bringing mindfulness into the mainstream; which is occurring.

In 2013 Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as “a means of paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

How does the study of mindfulness translate into a daily practice to find your inner peace? A bit over 5 years ago I made a significant job change which “forced” me, as a type A person, to slow down. At the time I wasn’t yet consciously aware that I was beginning to live mindfully. As I slowed myself internally and externally, I focused my thoughts and attention to the present moment. No longer was I dwelling on my past nor anxious about my future. This was quite the change for me as I used to be the king of anxiety and worry!

It was during this time I’m my life when I discovered Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness I mentioned above: “a means of paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Personally, the two key phrases in this definition are important to me are “on purpose” and “nonjudgmentally”. To find your inner-peace we need to consciously make the choice to spend time every day focusing our attention on what is happening around and within us. Our focus is not meant to judge what is happening, just to notice it, to experience it.  As we become aware of our surroundings and inner self, we become aware of life’s joys, sorrows, difficulties, potential, and hope. In this state of focused awareness we are enabled to discover solutions.

The goal of mindfulness is for us to slow down enough to fully experience life. Mindfulness is not a means to avoid negative aspects of life, but to fully live those experiences so as to learn how to cope with them in a healthy way. Many of us try to avoid negativity at all costs, only to discover that we may be successful at avoidance for a time, but eventually we are hit once again with that which we were trying to avoid. Mindfulness asks us to be aware of all of our emotions, to feel everything, even the negativity. In so doing, we end up coping with all that life gives us, the positives and the negatives. Realizing that we can cope with life, without needing to avoid life, teaches us necessary skills for dealing with future events we will encounter.

Living mindfully is a daily practice of noticing the little things. For example, one eats mindfully by doing so intentionally, savoring each bite rather than rushing through a meal without truly tasting or appreciating the event. During your commute, or rushing from one task to another, we can mindfully (intentionally) notice the details of the flora, buildings, people, cracks in the sidewalk, etc. instead of missing those aspects of our lives.

How can mindfulness lead you to finding your inner peace? The short answer: mindfulness guides us to live in the moment, for it is only in the moment where we have “control” in our lives. By control, I mean our ability to change our thoughts and perceptions. If I allow my thoughts to remain in either the past or the future, I suffer from stress and anxiety since I have no control over those time periods. All that I can do with the past is learn it’s lessons; in the future, all I can do is prepare, yet, in the present moment I am capable of making changes to my thoughts and feelings as I feel them. Therefore, keeping my thoughts focused on the present moment allows me to feel and experience life to its fullest, while choosing the thoughts I wish to think.

Mindfulness has not only been effective for centuries, it is now proven through scientific research as a means of guiding us to finding your inner peace. I’m not just a counselor teaching mindfulness; I’m also a practitioner of mindfulness who, in the moment, has found my inner peace.

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6 Tips For Practicing Mindfulness When Upset

mindfulness in adversity

In an instant life can become hectic and chaotic. Just when we think we have life all figured out, and our path forward appears to be straight; adversity happens! All the talk of mindfulness, living in the moment, and meditation seem to fall short in light of the adversity and chaotic realities of life.

Platitudes are not my message. My life has had its share of ups and downs so I will not trivialize the impact adversity plays on a person’s thoughts and feelings. My message relies on my own experience of mindfulness and it’s ability to lead us to finding and living with inner peace, regardless of what life may throw at us.

Mindfulness is a word I often use in my writings and in my life coaching sessions with my clients. One of the pioneers in the mindfulness movement, Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines mindfulness as: “a means of paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

The two phrases in this definition which I focus on are “on purpose” and “nonjudgmentally”. To find and maintain inner peace we need to consciously make the choice to spend time every day focusing our attention on what is happening around and within us. Our focus is not meant to judge what is happening, but to notice it.  As we become aware of our surroundings and our inner self, we become aware of life’s joys and potential, along with life’s sorrows and adversities. In this state of focused awareness, we are enabled to see solutions; to see hope.

Although it’s important to learn mindfulness before life throws its adversities upon you, mindfulness is not a practice which avoids or negates the negatives in life. We need mindfulness regardless of how we are feeling about ourselves and our situations. In fact, I would say that we need mindfulness even moreso during times of difficulties in our life.

Western society tends to devalue pain and suffering leaving us with the false sense that we can avoid all pain and suffering in life. Speaking from my own experience, and I’m sure you can relate, I have yet to find a way of living life which avoids all pain and suffering. Therefore, society provides us with a false hope, and increases our stress and anxiety when we fail to achieve a life without pain or suffering. The Buddha, in laying out the Four Noble Truths indicated that the principle cause of suffering is desire. In this case, the desire is to avoid all pain and suffering.

Mindfulness is a practice which teaches us how to live and cope with the joys, pains, and suffering we endure. We do not negate anything in life, rather we non-judgmentally accept what is happening and learn the best ways of coping.

Here are my six tips for practicing mindfulness when upset:

  1. Acknowledge that the emotion you are feeling exists. We do not want to ignore or deny any of our feelings and emotions. What we feel is what we feel. Spend time in quiet simply acknowledging what you are feeling and sit with that feeling. We do not judge the feeling as either good or bad, we simply acknowledge and name what we are feeling.
  2. The next step is similar to the first step of acknowledgement. In the second step we accept what we are feeling. We do not beat ourselves up that we are feeling this way, nor do we attempt to change how we are feeling. We accept that what we are feeling is our reality. A phrase which needs to be removed from our mind and speech is “ I shouldn’t feel this way.”  This phrase creates anxiety since we are scolding ourselves for the reality in which we find ourselves. Who are we to say what we should or shouldn’t be feeling when the reality is we are feeling it! Right or wrong is not the issue, what is happening in the moment is what’s important. Accept how you feel in the moment and understand that this feeling is a part of you. For example, if you were feeling extremely joyful would you question that you shouldn’t be feeling that way? Of course not! So why do we judge any other feeling besides those which we say are positive?
  3. Once we acknowledge and accept the feelings as they are, we move to the next step of understanding that emotions are fleeting. Emotions come and go, sometimes quickly sometimes slowly, but feelings do not last forever. Therefore,  experience your feelings in all of their intensity recognizing that you will never again feel this exact same way. Feelings, in their exactness, cannot be felt again. Sit long enough with your feelings and you may find that they pass during your sitting. When I worked with people struggling  from cravings while trying to live in recovery from their addiction, I would ask them to sit and either look at a stopwatch as the time passed, reminding themselves that they are still in recovery, or I would refocus their attention to anything other than the craving. As a behaviorist I understand that most cravings, and even feelings, when not encouraged only last about 15 or 20 minutes.
  4. Investigate, within yourself, where these emotions and feelings originate. We don’t ask “why” we are feeling these emotions for the answer only leads down the path of judgement. Understanding where the feelings are coming from begins the process of learning what we are to do with the emotions. It’s not a matter of understanding why, but of understanding “what”. The answer to “what” enables us to learn and grow whereas the why simply gives us information which may or may not be helpful to our taking action. Mindfulness and meditation is not just an intellectual act, it’s a process which enables us to learn about ourselves and how we can act in a way that maintains our inner peace.
  5. As we examine our emotions avoid the urge to catastrophize the possible outcomes. Our mind is an imaginative storyteller, yet these stories tend to make the situations worse than reality. it’s important for us to keep focused on realistic outcomes for the future rather than imagining outcomes way worse than might be possible. A technique you can use is to ask yourself the question “what is the worst that can happen?” Then ask yourself the question “if the worst does happen what can I do about it?” Consider all the possible actions that you, and with the assistance from others, can do to cope with even the worst case scenario. Understanding that the worst case scenario is probably not going to happen, if you have a plan for the worst case then when reality happens and it’s not as bad as what you imagined you will find peace in knowing that you can cope with the situation.
  6. The last tip for practicing mindfulness when upset is to learn from the situation. After following steps 1 through 5 you now have the ability to step back from the situation and reflect on what you have learned from what has happened. Learn from the actions that you took which worked and learn from the actions which you took that didn’t work. Learning where our emotions originate and how best to cope with those emotions gives us the power to tackle the same situations in similar ways. Future adversity will no longer be a stressor for us since we have learned that we not only can survive the adversity but what we also can do to minimize future adversity.

Practicing mindfulness when upset empowers us to act and to cope with situations which we may feel we are unable to handle. Mindfulness does not take away negativity in our lives, rather mindfulness teaches us the power that we have within to handle and survive whatever life may throw at us.

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Steps On How To Gain Personal Power

personal power

Who doesn’t want to be in control? We spend a tremendous amount of effort and energy in controlling our lives and our environment, only to be “surprised” when our efforts fail. Even though we convince ourselves that we are in control of our life and environment, the reality is that we aren’t in control of either.

Much of our stress and anxiety is caused by our failure at controlling life. So, finding where we do have control in life reduces our stress and anxiety. We do have control over our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. How I think and feel about myself influences my view, or perception, of the world.

Learning to gain personal power starts with an understanding of power. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, power is defined as “the ability to act or produce an effect”. In other words, our power is in our action. Power is not an outside force acting upon us, power comes from within. If we want to have personal power, we need to believe in our ability to control our thoughts and feelings, then to take action.

Many of the clients who come to me for life coaching are not only seeking inner peace, but also personal power. We spend much of our sessions talking about empowerment. Empowerment is about self-sufficiency, the ability to act on our own. We have the power to take action for our good and the good of others, therefore, we are empowered through our actions. Empowerment challenges our assumptions about the way things are and how they can be. We can change the status quo.

Challenging our assumptions about our situation allows us the freedom make changes. The purpose of personal power, as I see it, is in taking the actions necessary to make changes in our life. When something negative happens to us, dwelling on the negative only serves to make us feel stuck and a victim. The reality is that we may not be able to change what happens to us, but we do have the power to change how we feel about the situation. Therefore we have the power to take action in coping with the situation.

How do we gain personal power? Take these steps:

  1. Spend at least 10-20 minutes daily in quiet (or at least with minimal distractions) so as to gain insight about yourself. We need to learn about our thoughts, feelings, and desires without judging them. Simply spend the time to get to know yourself.
  2. Practice daily changing those thoughts which lead you away from your happiness. Recognize how the changing of your thoughts change your emotions and your behaviors. Use the experience to believe in your power and ability to control your thoughts and emotions.
  3. When adversity happens, and you find yourself stressing over the situation, make two lists; one list for those things in the situation you have control over, and another list for those things in the situation you have no control over. Focus your actions and energy on changing those things you have control over, ignoring the other list. Ignoring what we can’t change and taking action where we can is empowering. Don’t focus on changing the situation, keep your focus on changing your thoughts and actions.
  4. Repeat steps 1 – 4.

A key to gaining personal power is in believing that we can’t change the situation, but we can always change our outlook, or our thoughts, on the situation. Trying to control what we cannot control causes anxiety as we don’t have the power to control what is outside of ourselves. Keeping perspective on how I feel and what I can do on the inside makes all of the difference. Keeping our perspective on what we can change and control empowers us to take action, therefore lessening anxiety as we experience the change.

Understanding the power we have within, and taking the actions needed to make changes in life, allows us to overcome the obstacles we face. When life’s obstacles happen we will no longer fear them for we believe in the power that we have to make changes within us which will change our perspective on self and the world around us. We have not only gained personal power, but as a result, we are now empowered to face ourselves and the world.

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Time May Change But Live in the Moment

time change

Many of us in the United States turned back the hands of time early this morning.  We have ended the period of Daylight Savings Time and are now on “normal”, called “standard” time.  Our ability to change time prompts a few questions for me, some mundane and some a bit more philosophical.  But, to stay grounded I will refrain, for this post, from discussing the abstract philosophical notions of time.  Rather, I would like to reflect on this day in two specific ways, namely, how do we take advantage of our “extra hour”, and, how do we turn back the hands of time in our own lives.

I am certain many of us have had life experiences for which we have wished we could turn back time to change the events.  There are times that we wish we could have back to cherish again, to say something different, do something different, or to have never had happen in the first place.  But, regardless of our ability to change clocks, we do not yet have the ability to go back in time.  Hence our personal feelings of resentment, disappointment, anger, sorrow, etc.  But, all is not lost.  Even though we cannot go back in time to change the event, we still have the ability to change our current feelings about the event.  In our reflection about past events, what can we learn from them?  What steps can we take to avoid a future repeat?  Do we have the opportunity to “make peace” with those from our past?  If so, what is stopping us?  We aren’t able to change the event, but we can change the present moment.  How do I take advantage of the time I now have?

So, what do I do with the extra hour I am given?  Do I use it wisely?  Here are some thoughts for what we can do with our “extra” hour:

  • Sleep.  Rest is vital for a healthy mind, soul and body.
  • Spend the hour in reflection on your past and what you plan to do with your future.  Use the time for reflective journaling.
  • Write to a friend or family member whom you have not recently contacted.
  • Pray; read scripture.
  • Do something you typically don’t have time to do.  Take a walk, observe nature, read a book.
  • Spend quality time with those whom you love.

I pray your extra hour is a positive one for you along your life’s journey. 

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Rest Stop (Holy Saturday) … grief, hope, faith

Holy Saturday, Easter, Jesus, hope inspiration, love, peace, serenity

Holy Saturday, the day after the death of Jesus, Christians await, in hope and in faith, for God to show us a sign that Jesus is truly His son. When we think of the emotions of the followers of Jesus, so sure that He was the savior, to experience His death, their heartbreak and confusion must’ve been unbearable! Were they duped? How were they so wrong to think that Jesus was God? Yet, because of everything that they experienced while with Jesus, there still exists a sense of hope in their hearts. They don’t yet understand, and they are questioning, but they haven’t yet fully rejected the belief that Jesus is the son of God.

Taken from the Christian prayer-book “The Liturgy of the Hours”, here is an ancient sermon attributed to Easter yet prayed on Holy Saturday.  What does this sermon says to you in your life’s journey:

“Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden. See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree. I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you. Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.”

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Rest Stop (Sunday) … coping with the time change

life journey meditation reflection time spirituality God Christian stress anxiety joy peace serenity

Last night, many of us in the United States turned the hands of time ahead one hour as we are entering the period identified as Daylight Savings Time.  Our ability to change time prompts a few questions for me, some mundane and some a bit more philosophical.  But, to stay grounded I will refrain, for this post, from discussing the abstract philosophical notions of time.  Rather, I would like to reflect on this day in two specific ways, namely, how do we take advantage of our “extra hour” of daylight, and, what does time mean in our own lives.

I am certain many of us have had life experiences for which we have wished we could either turn back time or move time forward to change particular life events.  There are times that we wish we could have back to cherish again, to say something different, do something different, or to have never had happen in the first place.  But, regardless of our ability to change clocks, we do not yet have the ability to go back in time.  Therefore we struggle with our personal feelings of resentment, disappointment, anger, sorrow, etc.

But, all is not lost.  Even though we cannot go back in time to change the event, we still can change our current feelings about the event.  In our reflection about past events, what can we learn from them?  What steps can we take to avoid a future repeat?  Do we have the opportunity to “make peace” with those from our past?  If so, do it now.  We aren’t able to change the event from the past, but we can change our response and thoughts now, in the present moment.  We do not live in the past nor should we dwell there. But the past provides us tools for us to learn and to grow in the present moment. Wisely use the tools your past provides you. What you do today becomes your past tomorrow.

So, what do I do with the time I have been given? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Sleep.  Rest is vital for a healthy mind, soul and body.
  • Spend an hour in reflection on your past to use as a guide as you plan your future.
  • Use the time for reflective journaling.
  • Write to a friend or family member whom you have not recently contacted.
  • Do something you typically don’t have time to do, like taking a walk, observing nature, reading a book.
  • Spend quality time with the people closest to you.

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Rest Stop (Valentine’s Day) … love is an action

heart, cloud, valentines day, love, hope, peace, serenity

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Heart Cloud (credit: unknown)

Today, as many of us celebrate Valentine’s Day, our thoughts turn to love and those whom we love. But do we really understand what that simple, yet very powerful word, LOVE, means? This four letter word holds power, and not just power over our emotions, but also power over the prospect of world peace.

So what does this word mean? Personally, this is a tough word for me to reflect on since my natural inclination is more toward the intellectual pursuits not understanding my emotions. Yes, as a counselor I deal with emotions, but note what I wrote: “my” emotions. I have no issue in helping others to come to an understanding of their own emotions and how they affect their lives. But my emotions, well, that’s a whole different story.

So, what is love? This is what the Christian bible states about love:

1If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.9For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

In my reflections and meditations on love, I keep coming to the notion that love is an action. Even though love is an emotion, it is an emotion which demands an action. Many of our emotions can be kept to ourselves to experience, but love is an emotion that demands us to take action.


How do you experience love?

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…. a thought from Chris Shea:


My goal, and the mission of “Lifesjourney”, is to guide us toward finding self-awareness and inner peace. I encourage us to view our lives from varied perspectives trying to find what daily practices strengthen us along our journey.

Lifesjourney’s philosophy for finding inner peace lies in two basic concepts: keeping our thoughts on the present moment, and practicing some form of daily meditation.

“Mindfulness” is a word I often use in my writings, on my social media, and a concept I use with my clients. One of the pioneers in the mindfulness movement, Jon Kabat-Zinn, defines mindfulness as:

“a means of paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

Personally, the two key phrases in this definition which I feel are important are “on purpose” and “nonjudgmentally”. To find our inner-peace we need to consciously make the choice to spend time every day focusing our attention on what is happening around us and within us. Our focus is not meant to judge what is happening, just to notice it.  As we become aware of our surroundings and our inner self, we will become aware of life’s joys and potential. In our state of focused awareness, we are enabled to see solutions; to see hope. 2016-02-02 19.11.33

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