Insights from Atlanta Counselor Bill Herring, LCSW, CSAT

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Over the years I've enjoyed writing little essays and observations about a variety of topics related to personal growth, emotional development, relationship enhancenment and other topics I find meaningful and interesting. I hope you enjoy them! 

You can read small snippets of each blog post below: click the title of any that interest you to read the entire post.  Each entry has also been loosely grouped into categories which can help guide your viewing.

Forging Iron In The Furnace of Crisis

When a person experiences a life crisis, much of what was once familiar is no longer recognizable.What used to be stable is rocked to the core and the old familiar ways of living no longer seem to work.

I'm speaking not about the direst tragedies of life, such as the sudden death of a loved one, a brutal assault or similarly terrifying event.  These are "Big-T" traumas that threaten to a person's very ability to function and generally result in some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.  This is an entirely different category of pain deserving specialized treatment, and not the source of any 'life lesson'.  

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The Difference That Really Makes a Difference

"If you want something different, you have to do something different." This seems like a straight-forward aphorism, doesn't it? But there's an important corollary to this rule, which is that not every difference makes a difference

It's probably fair to say that anyone who walks into a counselor's office wants something to be different: to be less depressed, have a better marriage, break free of a destructive addiction, and on and on.

The Most Difficult Year In A Marriage

 

I recently saw a humorous refrigerator magnet with a sentence that I thought was brilliantly true:

"The most difficult year of marriage is THIS one."

Long-term relationships take work, and that's what makes them worthwhile. The idea that a marriage is easy probably accounts for the high percentage of divorces in this country. People get disillusioned because the initial chemical high of early love wears off. It often takes the consistent and long-term work of real attachment for couples to maintain stability, to say nothing of the effort required to maintain true dynamic growth in the relationship.

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Explain or Explore

What does it mean to explain?

Whether it's outside yourself ("This is how it works") or within yourself ("This is what I believe/think/feel"), an explanation deals with certaintyTo explain is to find something through knowledge.  Explanations can only go in one direction, i.e. "Let me explain that to you."

On the other hand.............

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Strength vs. Discernment

A common measure of progress in any endeavor is the development of enhanced strength or power.

  • In competitive sports such as wrestling, boxing or football, the person who is physically stronger almost always has an advantage. 
  • It's obviously good for people to be strong enough to withstand dangerous urges or impulses, such as the need for an addict to resist the compulsion to engage in addictive behavior.
  • Similarly, a person with a history of excessive anger must be strong enough to successfully resist the urge to become verbally abusive during an argument.

No Courage Without Fear

I once heard someone say admiringly of another: "He was very  courageous; he didn't know the meaning of fear." While I appreciate this sentiment I've come to the conclusion that this is not really a very good definition of true courage, for it seems to me that an action can only be brave in the presence of fear. People are most courageous when they are willing to face their greatest fears. Notice that the key phrase is "willing to", not "wanting to"! As has often been noted, the willingness to engage in behavior you don't want to do is the pathway to the greatest personal growth.

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Long Train, Big Mountain

Since I've worked as an Atlanta counselor and psychotherapist for decades I've been fortunate to frequently witness people making heroic changes in their lives. Sometimes these are major transformations that are evident to anyone close enough to notice, but often the kinds of changes that make the most difference in the long run are subtle and not immediately evident to anyone other than the person who is undertaking them. One of the many challenges along your journey of personal growth occurs during the initial period when other people either don't notice the change you're making or don't believe that it's real.

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The Best Time to Plant An Oak Tree

I love this old saying: "The best time to plant an oak tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today."

Who among us doesn't have at least some feeling of regret about actions not taken in the past? The decisions made in youth often take many years to reach full fruition in later life. Maybe you wish you had mastered a second language, learned how to play a musical instrument, gained skill at a sport, developed your artistic ability, or engaged in any other dream that would be reaping deep emotional dividends today.

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Meaningful Meantime

The phrase "meantime" is defined as the interval between one occurrence and another. As simple as this is, this one word has vital significance to the goal of experiencing a deeply satisfying life. Whether the interval between any two events is very large ("between birth and death") or very small ("between breakfast and lunch"), you are at this moment living somewhere within the span bridged by those two points in time.

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Last Of The Old, First Of The New

In my working counseling many hundreds of individuals and couples over the past two decades I've noticed that many people are striving to create new paradigms in their lives that are very different from anything they experienced in their family heritage. For example, I've seen countless courageous parents attempting to raise their children in ways that represent a striking departure from the way they themselves were brought up. Many people are making commitments to personal growth throughout their entire life cycle when such effort was unheralded in previous generations.

I consider these people to be pioneers of a new landscape, not just figurative but literal explorers in an uncharted world with few existing guideposts. One of the major challenges to being the "first of the new" is the relative absence of meaningful precedence to fall back on, and this lack of easily accessible guidance has resulted in many people simply "winging it", trying to figure out the best they can how to make their way across unfamiliar emotional and relational terrain. It is as if they are cutting a new trail through a wilderness.

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