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Empowerful You: Counseling. Coaching. Life Solutions. Patricia Obst, MSW, LCSW: Therapist & Life Coach
Monthly BLOG





January 30, 2016
Affirmations - Why We Think They Don't Work

Ok, stand in front of the mirror and say "I'm beautiful,"  "I love myself."  

Those instructions make most of us feel silly, squeemish and even stupid.  Part of the resistance to affirmations is that we pretty much resist anything that doesn't support our comfortable, familiar, safe way of thinking about ourselves.  Afterall, the negative self talk has been our companion for a very long time.  Self judgement is our buddy.  For some, negative self images may even have come from those we love and who cared for us growing up - of course we can't let go of those!

We also resist affirmations because we feel we are LYING to ourselves.  We don't REALLY think we're beautiful, we're just saying it cause our therapist told us to, or we read it somewhere that it was a good thing to do.  But we really don't believe what we're saying or that affirmations really work.  Afterall, how could LYING to yourself really be a GOOD thing!

How about taking a different perspective on AFFIRMATIONS.  Think of it this way - our mind pretty much guides us in everything we think and do.  So the words our mind speaks, whether quietly in our heads or spoken from our mouths, basically tell us where to go.  If we think or speak words of self loathing, berating and harshly judging ourselves, then our mind and actions will follow.  They will act according to what they have been told.  And we wonder why we feel badly about ourselves and why we always feel stuck.  

The true purpose of affirmations is to use our words to TELL US WHERE TO GO, not where we are.  We already know where we are and often it's not where we want to be.  So try to see affirmations as a way of speaking where you want to go and who you want to be.  Because the mind follows what we say - it will begin to behave in more positive ways.   When we say "I am worthwhile," over and over again, every day, our mind starts to see our worthiness and our actions begin to shift so that we are treating ourselves better.  

I had a client who was going through a nasty divorce and feeling very badly about himself.  He was withdrawn, quiet, and didn't make eye contact often.  We talked about how he used to be before the divorce.  He said he was friendly and out going and felt good about himself . When he set his intentions by speaking affirmations of "I am worthy, I am friendly, I am proud of who I am," he began to change.  One day he bounded into my office, head held high, talking all about how that week he kept his head up, looked people in the eye and talked with everyone he came in contact with.  Speaking affirmations he told his mind where he wanted to go, and it followed.

Consider this - you are not affirming "what is" with affirmations - you are affirming where you want to go and what you want to be.  In time, your mind will follow where your affirmations lead it - to a better place.  And isn't that a wonderful thing!

October 10, 2014

Grief and the Clay Vessel

I decided to specialize in grief therapy not because it seemed like an interesting topic in grad school, but because I had come through a loss so devestating that it almost ended my life.  In the years following my infant son's death, I knew that I wanted to guide others through the dark winding tunnel of their grief journey, carrying the lantern of experience to help light their way until they could find light and joy again and return to life whole.

I remember trying to express my grief through pages and pages of journaling.  One image of that grief stands out, that of a clay vessel.

It was a long journey til my son's birth.  Fertility treatments month after month, then finally the joyous news of pregnancy.  Three and a half months of 24/7 morning sickness, then relief at month four.  The relief lasted only two months before I went into preterm labor and was subsequently put on total bed rest in the hospital for the duration of my pregnancy.  The first month ticked by without incident, then at seven months an infection brought us to the operating room for an emergency c-section.  The next day my son took his last breath in my arms.

Needless to say, my life had been shattered, but not into pieces or tiny slivers.  No, it felt as if the shattering was so powerful that it left only dust.

Being a therapist I knew that I needed to embrace my grief completely, not run from the pain or sweep it under the rug.  And I did just that, letting the tears flow, at times relentlessly.

When I was further out from my loss I looked back and realized the profound purpose of those tears.  Clay dust needs water to take form.

Metaphorically, my tears fell into the clay dust, just making it moist at first.  Over time as the tears began to lessen, I was able to slowly have a hand in molding areas of my life into some kind of shape, not fully formed but solid.

Then as more healing occurred the form of my new life began to take on a shape.  Eventually that shape became a beautiful vessel as I continued to create meaning and purpose out of my tragedy.  I created ways to continue Ricky's legacy through working with March of Dimes, then working with other mothers who had lost children.  I reconnected with those close to me and pursued the adoption of my second son.

The vessel that was my life had shattered into dust, but my tears of sorrow created a way for that dust to take form again.  

No matter how broken or shattered we may be after a devestating loss, our tears are not useless.  They are the beginning of creating a new vessel, different as it may be, but a new life that we can cherish and embrace fully.

September 12, 2014


There are times in our lives when we feel hopeless, lost, frustrated, unable to see past our situation.  We sit, slumping in exasperation, not knowing where to go or what to do.  There is a story, a metaphor, that speaks to this.

A woman who had recently gotten married moved far away from her home town.  Everything she knew and loved was far away.  She and her husband had moved into a small apartment void of character and could only afford meager furnishings.  She longed for the comfort and familiarity of the home she had left.  Every morning when she awoke, the sparseness of her surroundings amplified what she had lost and the emptiness she felt.  When her husband went to work she would sit in the middle of the living room, look around at the bare walls and cry.  She felt hopeless, thinking she would have to live in this shell of a home forever. She didn't know how she could ever create a new life here or make new friends and welcome them into this space.

Then one day she had read an article about gratitude and possibilities.  After that each day she would still sit in the middle of the room, but instead of crying she would pick a corner to focus on.  She would allow herself to be grateful for the rooms and the space that she did have.  She would look intently at each corner and think about what she wanted it to look like.  Ideas for colors, textures and furnishings filled her imagination.  

Soon she began going out of her house to thrift stores and yard sales.  She would find treasures that would match her vision for each corner of the room.  She spent time cleaning, painting and refurbishing her findings.  In time her apartment became filled with cozy furniture, warm and inviting colors, and trinkets that gave it charm.  She had made their apartment into a home - a home that was warm and inviting enough to share with new friends on her way to creating a new life.

What's the lesson here? She started where she was, sad and hopeless, and expressed those emotions through tears and words of sorrow.  Then she began the act of being grateful for what she did have.  With her sadness acknowledged then her gratitude expressed, she was able to be open to seeing the possibilities. Then, not knowing what she would find, she still stepped out, opening herself up to the possibilities of finding what she was looking for.  She took action outside of her comfort zone, then she put effort into nurturing what she found with a creative and determined spirit.

Whether you're feeling trapped by fear, anxiety or depression; whether you're in the throes of grief over the loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job, or any other loss; whether you're stuck and unable to move forward toward reaching your goals and dreams; the journey is the same.  Sit with your fear, your pain, your frustration, acknowledging it and expressing it.  Then look away from the lack and look toward what you do have, seeing even the smallest of gifts.  Let your gratitude begin to open your mind to the possibilities of what is out there for you - a life of calm or happiness; a chance for other relationships or opportunities; the inspiration, motivation and direction to make your goals attainable.  Finally, take action beyond your past and your comfort zone.  Put genuine effort into nurturing what is important to you with a creative and determined spirit - all the while believing in the possibilities.


August 18, 2014

Here's what you'll find in my monthly BLOG coming soon in September:

- stories of amazing resilience 
- new science about just how changeable our brain really is
- analogies, tips, and tools to help you live a better life
- personal anecdotes of my own trials and tribulations to uplift and inspire you
- stories that will make you cry, laugh, be in awe, become motivated and believe in possibilities
- a little teaching, a little sharing, and a lot of good stuff to empower you through your life's journey


August 7, 2014

Welcome to my new Monthly BLOG

This spot is where I will share all the wisdom and experience I've gained throughout my 17 years as a therapist/life coach/social worker, and 51 years of my own life experience.

I know 51 may sound old to some of you - but I'm a young 51 - my 9 year old son keeps me that way, along with gym workouts and a positive outlook on life no matter how tough things get.  And they've gotten tough now and then as you can read in the About Me section of this website.

I decided on the name for my practice - EmpowerfulYou - because it's my passion to help you find that piece within yourself that is resilient, no matter how deeply buried it may be.  But don't worry, although I encourage you to be strong and empowered, I also have lots of compassion and nurturance to offer you along the way.  I know when to be gentle, when to nudge and when to light a fire under your butt.

So I hope you'll check back for your monthly dose of insight, inspiration and useful information.

I'll rotate each month with a focus on one of five areas of significance:  grief, anxiety, depression, relationships, and motivational coaching

I look forward to furthering my outreach through this Monthly BLOG - take care and see ya soon!