Accepting Unwanted Emotions

Emotions: according to the dictionary, the definition of an emotion is, “a conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body”.

But emotions serve us in a variety of ways.  For example, they give us valuable messages (e.g., fear in an unsafe situation), reveal how important something is to us (e.g., you have stronger emotions in your romantic relationship than you do when you’re shopping for cereal or having a casual conversation with a stranger), and prompt us to act (e.g., you stroke a partner’s face with love or turn away from spoiled food in disgust).

But the story of emotions is a bit more delicate and complex, as it isn’t simply about what we feel in response to what happens around us.  We tirelessly size up our inner world and place value judgments on it.  Depending on the circumstances we’re in and the messages we’ve received along the way about what we’re allowed to feel, emotions (or at least certain ones) may get tagged as acceptable, healthy, or reasonable, or they might get labeled as wrong, crazy, or threatening.  For instance, researchers at the University of Oxford highlighted the following categories of disapproving beliefs when it comes to painful emotions:

  • Emotions are too powerful and can’t be managed.

  • Emotions are bad and/or ridiculous.

  • Emotions are defective and make no sense.

  • Emotions are unproductive.

  • My emotions could sabotage me or other people.

  • My emotions might spread to other people and I can’t let that happen. 

What’s thorny about this is that if we have a negative outlook on our emotions, we’ve got a whole new load to carry—we’re more likely to have another negative emotion layered on top of the one we’re already experiencing.  The emotions we have about how we feel are known as meta-emotions.  For example, let’s say we see sadness as a sign of personal weakness and inadequacy.  Because of this viewpoint, we might feel shame or fear in response to our sadness.  And it’s not just uncomfortable emotions that get a bad rap.  People can feel nervous about pleasant emotions too.

Our ideas about our emotional life don’t just impact how we feel about our emotions, but the steps we take to respond to them as well.  To illustrate, let’s stay with our example of sadness.  We regard it as a signal that we’re weak and defective in some way, and this idea stirs up intense shame. The big question now: What do we do with all of this?  Considering that we’re treating sadness as intolerable and we feel ashamed of it, we’re relatively unlikely to talk about it with someone else, to be kind to ourselves in the face of it, or to allow ourselves to feel sad and see what happens.  No, instead we’re probably going to be more inclined to react to sadness in other ways, such as:

  • Mentally beating ourselves up for feeling it

  • Racking our brains over why we feel this way and why we can’t get over it and feel happy like everyone seems to feel

  • Trying to cover it up when we’re around other people

  • Self-medicating with alcohol or other substances

How we choose to respond to our emotions also has an impact on how we feel and on our quality of life.  If we criticize ourselves all the time, that harsh voice gets stronger and we’ll continue unintentionally manufacturing more shame.  We could mull over why we feel the way we do and question why we can’t make it go away, but this approach is more likely to leave us feeling even worse.  If we try to hide our sadness and mask what feels so unspeakable, we’re liable to bear the cost of this strategy, experiencing more distress, less comfort, and more detached relationships.  And although we can try to escape through alcohol and other substances, this opens the door to use disorders and other problems.

There are a variety of other ways in which rejecting what we feel sets the stage for giving us more of the very thing we don’t want.  For instance, when people are scared of emotions, this forecasts difficulty managing anger, feeling more upset, drawing from pleasant memories to feel better, and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  Moreover, people who view uncomfortable emotions as bad are also less likely to be empathic toward themselves.  And the idea that painful emotions are hazardous is related to lower odds of naming such emotions for one’s children, a valuable step in emotional skill-building. 

So if it doesn’t serve us to treat our emotions as off-limits, what’s the alternative?  When we accept distressing emotions as being a universal, natural part of life, it’s ironically linked to experiencing them less and, in the long run, having better emotional health.

But why might this be?  Why would accepting the emotions we don’t want generally be connected with them dwindling rather than growing?  Researchers have proposed several possible explanations:

  • Rumination can make people feel worse, and individuals who accept upsetting emotions don’t tend to ruminate over them as much.

  • Efforts to avoid what a person feels can go awry and have a boomerang effect, furnishing them with more of what they tried to push away.

  • Individuals who accept their emotions may be spared an extra layer of emotional pain by not having to feel upset about feeling upset.  

  • Disquieting emotions that we meet with acceptance are less likely to have as much staying power.

Acceptance is a mindset, an approach of giving ourselves permission to experience our emotions and taking the perspective that they’re human rather than silly, weak, crazy, wrong, dangerous, or beyond our power to ever be able to manage.  It’s about challenging that self-critical inner voice that says we can’t feel what we do, or that an emotion will harm us or be a badge of our inherent fault or shame.  Acceptance is about giving ourselves the space to listen to ourselves in a nonjudgmental way.  


Read the full article on Psychology Today.


If you live in the Los Angeles or Westlake Village area and are interested in therapy, I invite you to contact me via email at: tanyasamuelianmft@yahoo.com . I provide a complimentary consultation. Check out my services to see which one might fit your needs. Contact me now to see if we might be a good fit to work together! Or book your appointment here!

Becoming an Active Listener

Body language and unspoken attraction are some of the most fun parts at the start of a relationship. As you can probably imagine, those traits do not make for a healthy, lifelong partnership. One of the main reasons couples divorce is because they lost the ability or never had the skills to communicate with one another. Poor listening skills lead to the breakdown in communication in a marriage. Here are some tips on how to be a more effective and life-giving listener. 

  1. don’t interrupt: Let your spouse finish what they are saying. If this is a problem and you interrupt a lot, find some way to remind yourself to keep quiet. Some people put their chin in their hand as a sign to themselves to not speak until their mate is finished talking.

  2. keep an open mind: Don't judge. Jumping to conclusions or looking for the right or wrong in what is being said prevents you from listening. Think before you say anything in response, especially if it is an emotional reaction.

  3. make listening a priority: Listen without planning on what you are going to say in response. Let go of your own agenda. Be aware that you need to listen. Make eye contact. Pay attention by not looking at the TV or glancing at the newspaper or finishing up a chore.

  4. use a feedback technique: Let your partner know that you heard what they said by using a feedback technique and restating what was said. Say something like "I hear you when you say that..." Be open to the possibility that you didn't hear clearly what your spouse was saying, and give them space to say so if that is the case. 

  5. pay attention to their non-verbal signs: Be aware of non-verbal signs and clues—both yours and those of your mate. These include shrugging your shoulders, tone of voice, crossing arms or legs, nodding, eye contact or looking away, facial expressions (smile, frown, shock, disgust, tears, surprise, rolling eyes, etc.), and mannerisms (fiddling with papers, tapping your fingers). Over half of your message is delivered through non-verbal signs.

  6. understand what blocks you from listening: Try not to fall into these patterns of listening: mind reading, rehearsing, filtering, judging, daydreaming, advising, sparring, being right, changing the subject, stonewalling, and placating.

  7. stay focused: Focus on the main points that your spouse is talking about. It's okay to ask questions to clarify what you thought you heard.

  8. understand the differences in your communication styles: You may just communicate differently. Being aware can enhance your listening skills. One of you may often share because you want to give information or solve a problem. The other may tend to talk to connect with someone or to get information. Some folks talk more about relationships than others. You may be more concerned about details than your spouse. But don't attribute all your listening differences to your gender.

  9. show respect: Respect your spouse's point of view, even if you disagree with what is being said.

  10. know the difference between advice and talking: Don't give advice unless asked for it. You can't listen and talk at the same time. Feelings are neither right or wrong.


Read the full article on MYDOMAINE.


If you live in the Los Angeles or Westlake Village area and are interested in therapy, I invite you to contact me via email at: tanyasamuelianmft@yahoo.com . I provide a complimentary consultation. Check out my services to see which one might fit your needs. Contact me now to see if we might be a good fit to work together! Or book your appointment here!

Demystifying Couples Therapy

There’s a stigma around couples therapy, we don’t end up having those conversations, and we can wind up feeling alone when, of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. People associate it with divorce. However, most people who come to couples therapy are not getting divorced—they’re building a healthier relationship.

Q: What can you expect to get out of therapy as a couple? And what can’t you expect?

A lot of people come to therapy thinking that they’re going to change something about their partner. When you come to couples therapy, you have to be prepared to make changes yourself. You can’t change another person. But you can influence another person. And that’s why it’s important to know that if you make changes, you will instigate change in someone else. Meaning you can’t tell someone to change, but if you change your behavior, they will change in response to you.

We think: How can we get them to do something that we want? But really, the way we can do that is by helping them first. If you can do something in a way that helps them, you will get back something that helps you.

Q: How do you take the first step?

By the time a couple gets into an office, there’s often some resentment. And because of the resentment they don’t feel generous toward each other. They have to remember that they do love this person, and that the person isn’t acting in this way to harm them; the person is acting this way because they are also struggling. If you can look at it that way, you might have more compassion for your partner, because you’re not the only one who’s struggling in this relationship. When you have more compassion, you can carve out a place of generosity for the fact that your partner is struggling, too.

Your partner’s reality doesn’t cancel out your reality. Just because your partner sees the situation differently from how you see it, it doesn’t mean that that person is wrong or that you’re wrong. It just means there’s room for both. Sometimes people don’t want to take the first step because they think: I need you to see it this way. I need you to see it accurately. I need you to see it my way. It’s important for both people to listen to how the other person sees it, but that doesn’t mean they have to agree with it.

Q: When is going to couples therapy a good idea?

Sometimes there’s a concrete issue, like you don’t see eye to eye on something like money or how much time you spend with the other person’s family. Or you have different ideas about how you are raising the kids. You want to go before it gets to the point where you’re both backed into your corner and you can’t listen at all to the other person’s point of view. A good time to go is when you can say, “Hey, there have been a few times when we’ve gotten really agitated when we talk about this with each other. Maybe we need somebody else to help us learn how to have this conversation, because it’s a really sensitive topic for both of us, and it’s hard for us to hear each other.”

Q: How do you approach the idea of therapy if your partner is averse to it?

It’s very important not to make it sound like, “We’re going to therapy because you have problems.” Some people even say, “We’re going to therapy because I can’t handle what you’re doing.” Or “I can’t handle something about you.”

Try something along the lines of: “We’re going to therapy because I love you so much, and our relationship is so important to me, and it breaks my heart when we argue. I would really like to go talk to somebody so maybe we can get some help with that.”

Q: How do you go about finding the right therapist?

Word of mouth is a great way to find a couples therapist, but if you’re hesitant to do that, you can look on Psychology Today. Look at therapist profiles in your area and see which ones have an approach that feels comfortable to you. But really, you won’t know until you get into the room and you see what it’s like when all three of you are sitting there.

“It’s tricky, because there’s so much shame around couples therapy—even more than with individual therapy. People associate couples therapy with divorce. But in my experience, most people who come to couples therapy are not getting divorced—they’re building a healthier relationship. The people who end up getting divorced are often the people who never got help.”

It’s really important to know that couples therapy is hard work, but it’s also very rewarding. You’re very exposed in a way you aren’t in individual therapy. In individual therapy, you can present yourself the way you want to present yourself. In couples therapy, your therapist is going to see you and your partner and the way you two interact with each other. You can feel very vulnerable. And you should—that’s largely the point, to be real with each other.

After your first session, did you feel like the therapist heard both sides of what was happening? Did you feel like the therapist understood some of the ways you two interact? That’s a good way to assess initially.

(Also, take a look at my post about how to find the right therapist)

Q: What else can you expect from that first session?

You should feel that the therapist can hold both of your realities at the same time. You should also walk out knowing there’s a definite possibility that you have some flawed assumptions about your partner’s motives, and maybe some of those will come out in the first session. And that he or she has some flawed assumptions about yours. The therapist can help point out that maybe you were thinking that the reason your husband is never home for dinner on time is because he doesn’t want to be, or because his work is more important than you, or vice versa. But your assumptions are often wrong. A good therapist can help you learn something new—even in that first session—about the way your partner thinks and feels about you that isn’t as harmful or hurtful as you had imagined.

It’s always helpful for the therapist to reframe for people: “Hey, the reason that this or that might be happening is not because your partner doesn’t care about you. The whole reason that you’re both here is because you care about each other. If you didn’t care, nobody would be sitting in this room right now.”

Q: What kind of commitment is couples therapy, emotionally and timewise?

It depends on what’s going on and how long it’s been going on. That’s why people need to come in earlier, because if something is a relatively new issue between a couple, that can be resolved pretty quickly. If something has been going on for decades, it can’t be undone in four sessions. That might take a little bit longer.

The good news is that once you start seeing the underlying patterns, it changes most of your interactions. It won’t just change the one thing that you came in to talk about; it will change the way you see each other. You’ll see each other with more generosity and more compassion. You will take what your partner is doing less personally, and you will feel less injured by the other person’s behavior. That helps globally in the relationship. You don’t have to keep coming back every time you have a problem, because now you know more about each other in a way that helps you to resolve your own problems.

Q: How does couples therapy work in conjunction with individual therapy, if one partner already has a therapist?

Lots of people do that. You get different things out of them. You learn a lot about yourself individually in couples therapy, but sometimes people need extra support, or they’d like the extra support. Or they’re working through something personally that they need an individual therapist for. A couples therapist will generally not see either member of a couple for individual therapy, because we want that relationship to be clean. We don’t want any perception of the therapist favoring one person over the other. There’s often a lot of sibling-like rivalry in couples therapy, where people feel like they want the therapist to take their side, or they want the therapist to like them better. It’s not really in their awareness. People want the therapist to validate their position, but we’re not there to do that—nor would that be helpful.

Q: What are some tools that couples can try using to resolve conflict?

A lot of people say, “You’re not listening to me. You’re not listening,” as they’re talking over somebody else. Before you say you don’t feel heard, consider how well you listen.

People don’t realize they do that. They feel so unheard that they don’t realize that they’re making the other person feel unheard. You will be heard much more expansively by the other person if you truly listen to them. A lot of people don’t realize that they’re terrible listeners; they really just want to get their point across.

One of the most important things is to realize that you’re two separate people: You’re going to have different ideas and perceptions. And you don’t have to convince the other person of the truth of your perception. It’s important only that they understand how you feel about it. But neither perception is more valid than the other.

Q: How do you know when you can pause on couples therapy?

When the couple feels like they’re relating to each other better. When they feel like whatever they came in for isn’t really happening anymore, or at least it’s not happening to the same degree. Or even if it’s happening, they are able to stop before it escalates and not go down that rabbit hole the way they used to. It’s about changing the pattern between them.

All couples do a dance. If one person changes the dance, either the other person is going to fall flat on the floor or they’re going to have to change their steps. Usually what happens is the other partner changes their steps, too. And now the couple’s doing a different dance, and if they’re doing a different dance and it’s working for them, then they don’t need to be in therapy anymore.

Sometimes people are scared to leave couples therapy because even though their problem has gotten better or is mostly resolved, they fear that if they leave therapy, they will backslide at times. But that’s to be expected. I say, “Go out there and try it, and if you backslide, come back in. You know you can come in for a tune-up.”

There’s nothing wrong with coming in for a tune-up, but I do want clients to learn to trust themselves, to trust that they can do this and that they are going to backslide. We all have longstanding reactions that are very visceral, and sometimes we screw up. But that’s okay—nobody’s perfect. It doesn’t have to be very significant. It’s kind of like when people go on a diet and they eat two pieces of cake and feel like their entire diet is ruined. It’s not—you ate an extra piece of cake, and you move on.

You can always come back to therapy. It’s a conversation that you have with the therapist and with each other. But it’s not as though everything needs to be perfect for you to stop. No couple is perfect.

Read the full article on Goop.


If you live in the Los Angeles or Westlake Village area and are interested in therapy, I invite you to contact me via email at: tanyasamuelianmft@yahoo.com . I provide a 15-minute complimentary consultation. Check out my services to see which one might fit your needs. Contact me now to see if we might be a good fit to work together! Or book your appointment here!




Dear Diary...

Writing down your feelings is a powerful tool for relationships because by doing it, you get to know the number-one most important person in your life: yourself. The quality of any romantic relationship is going to be directly correlated to your own self-worth. You are the person you really need to get to know, and journaling is a great ally in that process.

Writing can help you tune in to your inner voice and appreciate who you are—in other words, your journal shouldn’t just be a dumping ground for frustrations about your partner. (Although that can definitely be helpful in some situations, like if you need to have a talk with them and want to organize your thoughts.) Rather, you can also look at it as a place to dig deep into who you are and what you want.

Here are a few journal prompts that can help take a person’s relationships to the next level, whether single or attached.

Journal Prompts for Single People

The perfect day visualization: A big roadblock people come up against when dating is that they don’t really know what they want. And if you’re not clear on your endgame, you risk wasting time and energy on people who ultimately aren’t going to be the best fit for you.

To find that clarity, try this two-part journaling exercise. First, take a little time to dream about what [your ideal] partnership looks like and feels like. These prompts can help get you started, but feel free to be creative here:

  • Journal out a whole day spent with this person. What does it feel like when you wake up together? Where do you go? What do you do? Really dig in and get specific.

  • Keep coming back to how it feels physically and emotionally. Are you energized? Does it give you a sense of safety? Are you having fun?

Next, use the intel gleaned from your perfect-day visualization to make a list of qualities you want to prioritize in a partner. What are the nonnegotiables for you?

The post-date debrief: One of the ickier aspects of dating-app culture is that it can make a person feel like they’re on a job interview, and it’s easy to put too much focus on the performance aspect. We’ve all fallen down the rabbit hole of self-doubt. But this is the absolute wrong approach. We’re often so preoccupied with being chosen that it’s easy to forget that you are picking your partner, as well.

You can use your journal to flip the script. Don’t just get caught up in the ‘shiny object’ aspects of their persona or appearance, ask yourself about the qualities they exhibited and if those are in alignment with what’s most important to you. Here are some things she suggests you journal about after a date:

  • How did your evening make you feel?

  • What did you enjoy about spending time with this person (or not)?

  • Did they make you feel good or kick up insecurities?

It’s not about judging your date. It’s about being connected with yourself through the dating process and assessing whether you two humans are a good fit for one another. You might be surprised to realize that person you were hoping to impress isn’t actually that impressive themselves!

Journal Prompts if You’re in a Relationship

The stress-buster: Stress is a major relationship buzzkill—if you’re obsessing over your to-do list or a conflict with someone at work, it’s hard to be present with your partner. Compounding this is the fact that self-care can often take a backseat when you’re coupled up. It erodes the foundation of the relationship long-term, because you both need to be taking care of yourselves in order to have the energy and clarity to take care of each other.

Here’s how you can use your journal to calm your mind and clear mental space for your S.O.

  • At night in bed, jot down a list of everything you want to get out of your head. This might help you sleep better—and wake up knowing exactly what priorities you need to tackle the next day. (That way, you’re not thinking about them during quality time with your bedmate.)

  • In the morning, do a free-write for at least four minutes and see what comes up on the page. Think of it like a juice cleanse for your brain.

The self-love party: Let’s be honest: One of the perks of being in a relationship is having someone constantly tell you how great they think you are. But if you’re solely looking to your partner to validate you, you’re likely heading down a sketchy path. We aren’t going to get all our needs met by a significant other. That’s unreasonable and unrealistic.

If you find that your moods peak and dip based on the amount of attention you’re getting from your plus-one, try giving yourself the gratuitous praise you’re seeking. Make a list of the things that you appreciate about yourself, and not a short list! Go for at least 50: traits, body parts, habits, you name it. Like how you set the dining room table? Include it. Think you have lovely feet, claim it. Love how you are a good friend to x person? Celebrate it. It’ll take the pressure off your partner to be the president of your fan club—but, more importantly, it can help you fall a little deeper in love with you.

Read the full article on Well+Good.


If you live in the Los Angeles or Westlake Village area and are interested in therapy, I invite you to contact me via email at: tanyasamuelianmft@yahoo.com . I provide a complimentary consultation. Check out my services to see which one might fit your needs. Contact me now to see if we might be a good fit to work together! Or book your appointment here!






Relationship Pitfalls to be Aware Of

I think it’s safe to say, everyone loves love, whether you’re all about commitment or prefer to fly solo. The initial stages of a relationship can have you feeling like you’re on cloud 9 - the excitement, the butterflies, the attention, you know the feeling! However, once the “honeymoon" phase” has worn off and some time has passed, reality kicks in and certain relationship pitfalls can land you in hot water if you don’t know how to navigate them.

Making a relationship last for the long haul can be incredibly difficult! People naturally evolve and change and, unfortunately, sometimes, they aren’t able to do it together. That said, relationships are a choice and, while severing ties can be healthy in many instances, if you’re both in it to win it, playing for keeps can still be done.

Here are some relationship landmines to steer clear of on the path to forever.

Living in Absolute Certainty

Certainty is the end of a good relationship in most cases. Certainty leads to taking people for granted and that leads to increased friction and, ultimately, a break may occur.

Acknowledging and accepting change is important (even if it leads to the end of a relationship). It will help you appreciate your significant other more and see them as someone to continue to fight for.

Pointing Fingers

The secret to a healthy and long-lasting love is actually somewhat simple, but it requires each party to being fully accountable for their role. When it comes to conflict, couples often focus on how their significant other has wronged or hurt them. The sooner people learn that the only thing they can change is themselves, the better off they’ll be.

Without work from both sides it is almost impossible to fix a relationship. Getting couples to see the problem as something they both created, and not just making it about the other person, is one of the first aspects of relationship I attempt to change.

Ignoring Love Languages

Knowing the little things that your partner responds to - touch, words of affirmation, quality time, thoughtful acts, etc. — is pretty crucial in keeping things healthy and happy over time.

 The language you most respond to is also the vehicle in which you express your love. If you don’t know what the other person responds to, you give what you want. In doing so, however, you slowly lose understanding of your partner, which can lead to a disconnect.

Attacking Each Other Instead of the Problem

If you continuously attack each other, you’re slowly stripping your partner of their dignity. Put your issues on the table and keep your focus on that. If you just throw a bandage on top of a dirty wound, it’s not going to heal correctly or fully. It’s when you pour the antiseptic solution on the wound that it’s purified and can heal well.

For instance, lack of communication is a popular pitfall in long-term relationships. It’s not about ‘We don’t know how to communicate’; What they should be asking is, ‘What did we lose in the communication process?’ and ‘When did I stop feeling safe?’ It gets deeper and what is actually lost is safety.

At the end of the day, relationships — no matter how healthy or peaceful — are work. You have to be game to put your all in if you’re running toward the finish line.

Relationships are not 50/50, they should be 100 percent. Always bring 100 percent of yourself.

If you live in the Los Angeles/Westlake Village area and are interested in therapy, I invite you to contact me via email at: tanyasamuelianmft@yahoo.com . I provide a complimentary consultation. Contact me now to see if we might be a good fit to work together! Or book your appointment now!