All posts by Bradley Lake, LICSW LCSW-C

About Bradley Lake, LICSW LCSW-C

I work with a diverse patient population: gay men, lesbians, families, children/adolescents, couples and groups. I enjoy lecturing at local graduate programs, facilitating numerous groups for professional clinicians and peer counselors, and providing ongoing supervision for therapists. I also enjoy speaking and leading workshops for organizations, agencies and law firms.

Sitting on the Edge of the Cliff

Sitting on the edge of the cliff is when the individuals of a couple, or the couple itself, is in significant pain, profound conflict and on the verge of jumping. While sitting on this precarious ledge there is a meaningful opportunity for the individuals and the couple to grow – the hope of a growth edge, rather then the demise of a relationship.

These experiences are inevitable. It speaks to the viability, survival and resilience of the couple. The other day my husband and I were in the midst of a difficult, hard and painful conversation (if not argument) and I felt profoundly grateful for all the times that we had historically, individually and collectively, sat on the edge of the cliff. I’d been there before, I’d learned from this painful and scary place. We have learned a great deal about one another and our capacity to be resilient – we can and will do it again.

Stay on Your Side of the Fence

My feelings are mine. My experiences are mine. My journey is mine. Few people like to be told what they are thinking or feeling. Be curious and live in the land of not knowing. In your relationships help to create a safe place, an invitation for further sharing and revealing, and a reduction in defensiveness, by staying on your side of the fence.

As a couples therapist I often find myself saying, “Please stay on your side of the fence, it will help you to be seen and heard more clearly, it will help your mate to feel seen and heard and it will be fundamentally important to the growth of your relationship.” The process and journey of staying on your side of the fence will better enhance Empathy and Respect – two of the major cornerstones to any intimate relationship.

Self-Caring Ownership Will Set You Free

The capacity to take ownership is one of those magical moments in time where you can gain a deeper understanding and knowledge of yourself. When you are less invested in how others think of you, when your ego is less involved in being right, when your intention is to know more about yourself, when you earnestly care about your well being, and when you live in the land of healthy entitlement you provide yourself the opportunity to take ownership that informs growth.

When I am lovingly challenged about how I hurt, angered, frustrated, or possibly saddened someone, it is an opportunity to hear and see that person. It is also an opportunity to know more about myself – what can I come to know about the origins of my actions, the feelings that informed my choices and the potential healing of old internal wounds. By taking self-caring ownership three significant things happen: 1). I hear and see the other person, 2). I learn more about myself and 3). The process and journey between us informs a deepening of intimacy.

In contrast, self-deprecating ownership only entraps you. It is basically asking the other person to take care of you, to sooth your wounded ego, shame and/or guilt – that is your work to lovingly do, not theirs. Even if the challenge that is coming your way is incorrect, your ownership of your own truth can be a place of underscoring what you know and inform greater intimacy with the other.

Choose Curiosity

To actively see and hear others is to presume that you don’t know the answers – instead to be curious. Questions, a hallmark of curiosity, are an essential step in the process of seeing and hearing. The flower wants to be experienced, witnessed and observed, not talked to.

When you join in the relational experience of being curious, and relinquish being correct, you will not only know more about that person, but you will have more with that person. The more can be rich and nuanced, it can be informative and revealing, it can be bold and scary, and it can inform meaningful intimacy.

The process of being curious is also important in self-discovery. “I wonder what that was about?” “I wonder why I was just defensive?” “I wonder why I’m scared, sad, lonely, threatened, joyful, at peace, etc?”

To be curious, rather than correct, is to give up control and enter into a journey with oneself, and with others along the path.

The DNA of Knowing

To be seen and heard is not simply to be noticed or to have others agree with you. It is something that lands more deeply upon and within you. It is something that feels more intimate with yourself and more connected to others. It is something that becomes a place of knowing. Knowing becomes something that is yours – a psychological or identity DNA. Knowing can be shared by others but is specific to you.

There is a Difference between Confidence and Knowing. Confidence is something that you can wear, like Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Coat. Something that you can take on and off. Knowing is something that is yours, a language with yourself, the strut in your step, and the glow that surrounds and follows you.

Seen and Heard

It is my belief, as a therapist, parent, friend, child, family member and mate, that a commonly shared human desire is to be seen and heard. It is the foundation of knowing, connection, healing and growth. Enter more deeply into the journey of being Seen and Heard.

We know through theories of healthy attachment that from the time of birth, infants are scanning their environment, through the senses of touch, smell and eventually sight, to “see” who is there, who is attending to them, who notices, who cares and who helps to create a safe place for them to flourish.  As a result of this nurturing journey they will come to know the world around them, themselves, and the connection between the two.  If a child does not receive enough of the goodies of nurturing sensory stimulation they will struggle to attach in healthy ways and as a result they may become anxious, impulsive, and insecure.

To be seen and heard is food.  What you do with these nutrients is yours to take ownership of.  It is an opportunity to courageously challenge you to know more about yourself, even the parts that live in the shadows, that live in guilt and shame, and that with the light of knowledge will enhance connection and growth.

It is my belief, as a therapist, parent, friend, child, family member and mate, that a commonly shared human desire is to be seen and heard. It is the foundation of knowing, connection, healing and growth. Enter more deeply into the journey of being Seen and Heard.