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I have been addressing family conflict, and helping children and their parents find solutions since 1990.
Recent Activity
Most people treat their body like a car: they fuel it, maintain it and use it to get around town. But actually, your body is much more like a Horse- it's a big Animal, with a mind of it's own. And when that Horse gets upset, nervous, fidgety, you need to know how to settle it, soothe it, or it will run away with you! So what soothes the Horse? Exercise, fresh air, soft talk, soothing touch, company. In this moment in our lives, responding to government calls for self-isolation and social distancing, we're all struggling with how to settle... Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2020 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
Mindful eating: without screens, books, or other distractions. It's especially difficult when eating alone! So far, I've done it for 4 meals. Doesn't sound like much, does it? But I've noticed a couple of things already: I am taking longer to eat I am tasting my food more fully And... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2018 at Walk the Talk
My plan is to add one new practice and remove one old practice. For January then: add a daily mile on my treadmill remove the habit of watching screens while eating. Excercise has been linked with improved mood in multiple studies, and I often suggest it to my clients. I... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2018 at Walk the Talk
As a therapist, I often share recommendations from books or articles that I’ve read. I don’t assign homework, that’s not my style- but I will encourage people to try different things out, as a supportive practice to therapy. The irony is this: I will often recommend things that I think... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2018 at Walk the Talk
All... or Nothing. These are not two separate destinations- they are points on a scale. But we often use 'all' or 'nothing' as the only measures for success- just two points by which to gauge our experience. Maybe it's a subtle point- it's so embedded in our way of thinking. We're either Working out, or not. We're productive or lazy. Happy or sad. Relaxed or Anxious. Settled or Angry. Failing or Succeeding. We call it 'binary thinking'- two states, opposite of each other. One is preferred, and one is to be avoided. The effect is so limiting! All the territory... Continue reading
Posted Oct 26, 2017 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
Sometimes people will say: "I've got a new toy"... well- I've got a new toy! Actually, the truth is, I've got a few new toys, lately. One is a keyboard, the other is an IPad tablet. So, the IPad I can say is for work- and it is, really. But- it comes with some nifty things for play. I'm not talking about games, though I sometimes use games. But the games we typically use on phones and tablets are not really play. They are more accurately categorized as 'escape' or 'numbing'. People use these simple repetitive games to distract themselves... Continue reading
Posted Oct 25, 2017 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
Today I've got some "Free" time. What exactly does that mean? Our entire economy is built on this metaphor:Time is Money. We give our time in work, in exchange for money- that's the most obvious part of the metaphor. More subtle is the idea of 'free' time. "Free" has been made into a marketing strategy. It's sometimes portrayed as a reward- buy this thing, and get this other thing for 'free'. Do we think about free time this way, as well? I've purchased my free time, through working. I can 'afford' this time, to not be working. But then, what... Continue reading
Posted Oct 24, 2017 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
How do we know when enough is enough? Enough effort? Enough productivity? Good enough? Enough satisfaction? Enough safety? As a Narrative therapist, I am alert to the influence of social scripts, 'grand narratives' that can invisibly influence our thinking and actions. These scripts often show up as directions, or instructions for life and have a tone of authority. Phrases like "everyone should..." or "people ought to.." Sometimes the 'people' are left out, and we just here the command: 'work harder' 'try your best', 'get ahead', 'more is better'. These are cultural directives, and they disguise cultural assumptions about work, possessions,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2017 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
Today, I'm reminded of the phrase "Garbage in, Garbage out"- associated with computer coding, and the very sensible idea that bad coding leads to bad program performance. I'm thinking of it because of the disturbing dreams I had last night, and the clear link to a Netflix show I've been watching. It's an FBI show featuring an actor I like. But its plot centres on conspiracy theory- nothing is accidental, everything is a plot- and all the characters eventually live through a paranoid lens. My dreams were populated with prisoners, images of stress and persecution. That has an effect on... Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2017 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
It's a saying that comes from Buddhist ideas- that what we focus our attention on shapes our experience. This idea is being supported by current work in the study of the brain, through brain imaging technology, we can see the connections in our neural networks forming! It's impressive. How do we make use of this information, to improve our lives? One way is through what people commonly call a 'gratitude practice'. or what our grandparents might have called "count your blessings". Every once in a while, I get reminded of this- in my work, in my life at home: the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2017 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
Feedback given in anger can be harmful. And feedback given in fear can be vague. We don't want to give 'hit-and-run' feedback, but neither do we want to miss the mark. The goal is to offer the person some ideas for change that will improve the relationship. So it should... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2016 at Awkward Feedback
For me, no question, it was about body odour. SUCH a personal subject, and seems so delicate... and it did not go that well, at the time. I've learned a few things since then. Setting the stage, setting the tone, asking the right questions, offering solutions... just a few basic... Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2016 at Awkward Feedback
When we talk about self-esteem, we often run into the idea of 'self-confidence'; the two sometimes seem interchangeable. It gets me wondering if the word 'self' might be a little bit over general. We have many sides to our identity, many different ways of being in the world. Some of these sides are well-established. Others seem brand-new. So it stands to reason that 'confidence' might be varied. 'Self-confidence' often comes into question when a person is stretching themselves, trying something a bit new, or taking a risk of some kind. A helpful thing to ask ourselves, or the people we... Continue reading
Posted Feb 29, 2012 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
Earlier this week I wrote about possible difficulties with a 'cause and effect' approach to experiences of 'failure'. Today I want to offer a different idea: Values and Practices I'll go back to my story of 'failure'- when I lost my record of 168 days of writing in a row. At first I lectured myself about 'consistency' and 'focus'- and that was quite unpleasant. So then I thought about my purpose in pursuing the goal... Was it just about the Pteradactyl badge? (the answer to that is: Yes! partly... I really, really like that badge... and just so you know-... Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2012 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
"Low Self-esteem" invites Frustration We often experience frustration when the people we love don't see their own successes, their own competence. It's what makes 'low self-esteem' such a gnarly problem. You can't convince someone that they are competent, if they are not seeing it themselves. Part of the problem has to do with how we are taught to praise and reinforce kids. We tell them they are 'good' at things. Good at art, good at math, good at making friends. Or, we tell them about their admirable qualities; we say that they are kind, or thoughtful, or a good listener.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 15, 2012 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
"Comparison" can be an enormous factor in generating 'low self-esteem'. This is partly because the standards of "Comparison" are usually based on outside sources, and may shift according to the situation. What is okay in one situation is judged negatively in another. But when we are connected to our own purposes and values, this shifting standard of "Comparison" can lose a lot of its power over us. Identity is something we build over time If Identity is something we build over time, then it must be connected to our practices, our actions. Sometimes these practices are accidental- we've just fallen... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2012 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
When I am working with someone and the issue of 'low self-esteem' comes up, we often talk about the idea of "Comparison". In my last post, I talked about how my weight and body shape is perceived and responded to differently, depending on which part of my family I am with-I think this is a good example of how "Comparison" isn't just to other specific individuals- it can be to a whole community. Families are a community. So are workplaces and professional groups, teams and other social groups, schools and other educational settings. Each group comes with a set of... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2012 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
When we are thinking about 'self-esteem' it is important to consider which 'self' we are talking about. One way to do this is to notice all the different roles we have in our lives. For example, I am a daughter and a daughter-in-law; I'm a therapist and a painter; I am a step-mom, a wife, a friend; I am a trainer and a learner. In each of these roles there are many things that stay the same about me. But how I feel about these roles many change, depending on the surroundings, and the people who are inter-acting with me.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2012 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
How do we connect the dots between our sense of self and influential others? The best way to re-connect with the influential figures of our lives is through stories. Stories do a number of things: they set the scene they describe action they inite us to think about the feelings, ideas and experiences of others, and they encourage us to make sense of our lives. We'll often say things like 'I've always done that' or 'I've always been that way' when we are talking about practices or values. but there is usually a story behind it- some experience started us... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2012 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
Here is an interesting idea, from Michael White's 'Maps of Narrative Therapy' (2007): "...identity is founded upon an 'association of life' rather than a core self." (p. 129) He also writes, in the same chapter: "The membership of this association of life is made up of the significant figures of a person's history, as well as the identities of the person's present circumstances, whose voices are influential with regard to how the person constructs her or his identity." (p. 136) White is suggesting that our sense of self is 'made', not born- and that other people make significant contributions to... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2012 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
Stories about our selves are really stories about relationships. Even in utter isolation, we create and value relationships, as part of how we make sense of the world. For me the most moving scene in the movie "Cast Away" (Tom Hanks, 2000) was when Tom's character Chuck Noland loses his 'friend' Wilson the volleyball... Something about Chuck's sense of self had to do with this relationship- I guess we could come up with a lot of different stories about what Wilson meant to Chuck- after all, in the movie, Wilson was Chuck's only companion for four years... But what seems... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2012 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
Stories about what we do and how it affects other people are a big part of our self-esteem. This example of a dad and daughter explores how the same actions can take on different meaning, generating a story of success or of failure. Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2012 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
I've been having conversations with other women, lately, about what it means to be single in 2012. In some ways, it doesn't seem to matter how old you are, or what you've accomplished in your life so far; the social expectation that we should be partnered up are still very powerful. That sounds kind of cold... it's not just social expectations, of course. We also want a companion, a person to share experiences with, someone to love and be loved by. But what does it mean when this is not available? When we lose a partner, through illness, or divorce,... Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2012 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
what types of questions really get kids talking? How can we connect children with what they already know about handling problems? Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2011 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail
Stories of "Failure" and Self-Esteem Here are some questions I've been re-considering lately: What happens when we fail at something? What is the process afterwards? How do we recover? What is the standard of performance? How do these standards develop? Here's why : I use the writing site to develop my writing habits. This site tracks the number of words you write in a session (the minimum is 750 or 3 pages); and rewards you with 'badges' for making it a daily habit. I've discovered I like badges... So, back in the summer of 2011, I'd gotten to a... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2011 at Bonnie Miller- Helping Problems Fail