Insights from Atlanta Counselor Bill Herring, LCSW, CSAT

Bill Herring photo

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.

Wisdom Quote: It's Never a Straight Line

"It's never a straight line."  -Geri Larkin

We think the shortest path between two points is a straight line. While this may be true in physics it is seldom the case in personal growth. You don't go from your starting point to your destination without detours, obstacles, curves, roadblocks, false starts, setbacks and other barriers to your goal. That's just how a hero's journey unfolds (and in case you've forgotten or have never been told, that's what your life is about).

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Everybody's Weird

I had a client recently who said "I just want to feel normal." I certainly understand the sentiment and yet my reaction when I hear this fairly common goal is mixed. Generally I find that the underlying desire for "normal" is a need to feel OK in your own skin, to feel accepted and acceptable. At the root is some combination of shame and exhaustion: shame (the wellspring of most dysfunction) at feeling somehow defective and exhaustion at trying so hard to achieve an elusive peace of mind.

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Wisdom Quote: The Past Isn't Past

"The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past." -- William Faulkner

This famous quote from Faulkner's "Requiem for a Nun" crops up from time to time in popular culture. I remember when Barack Obama used it in a speech on race relations during his first presidential campaign. The same sentiment was paraphrased in the excellent 1999 movie "Magnolia" when one of the main characters says "We might be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."

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No Tease Zone

From time to time in my counseling practice I find couples who have settled on a style of communication characterized by light-hearted teasing and amiable sarcasm. As good-natured as this communication style can appear on the surface I typically ask them to eliminate the practice of making fun of each other. I introduce the idea of establishing a "no tease zone" throughout their household. I encourage the elimination of this kind of genial teasing because it rarely leads to any productive growth in intimacy.

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Picking Up the 500 Pound Telephone

One of the most important tools available to someone breaking the bonds of addictive behavior is the telephone. The "cunning, baffling and powerful" nature of addiction thrives in secrecy and shame, and open communication brings much-needed air and light into an addict's walled-off lifestyle. It's been noted many times that the first word of the "12 Steps" of addiction recovery is "we." And yet picking up a telephone and talking to another person is one of the hardest possible behaviors for a habitually secretive addict. This is the origin of the saying about the difficulty of "picking up the 500 pound telephone".

Two Types of Power

Many years ago I read a little book called "The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How To Recognize It And How To Respond", by Patricia Evans. I still recommend this book (despite its unfortunate tendency toward anti-male bias) for its admirable job of highlighting the many types of verbal abuse. These include many subtle forms that may slip by unnoticed, such as discounting ("Oh, that's nothing"), blocking ("I don't want to talk about it"), diverting ("That's not the real issue, this is"),and trivializing ("Whatever"), all of which reinforce an unbalanced power dynamic.

"If" vs. "Is"

Picture representing "if"Regular readers know that I often write about what I call "therapeutic distinctions", pairs of words or concepts with similar meanings that contain important and even life-altering distinctions, or which initially seem to have little in common but which reveal valuable insights when examined more deeply. These distinctions can be crucial since the words we use influence the way we think, and even small conceptual differences can yield very large consequences.

Intentional vs. Invitational

This is another entry in my ever-increasing collection of "therapeutic distinctions", pairs of words that relate to each other while containing subtle but important differences in meaning. Since I pay very close attention to words I'm constantly on the alert for distinctions that can open up new choices in how to think about a situation. More choices equal more possibilities, and that's where the greatest fun is . (If you want proof of that statement just get a 64-color box of crayons.)

Places and Paces

First and second place ribbons

When I'm providing couples counseling it is inevitable that each person will be a slightly different "place" in the change process. To begin with, it's not unusual for one person to initially be more interested in being in a counseling office than the other. It's probably fair to say that in some fundamental way each partner in a relationship is in a different "place" than the other. Healthy partners don't need to be at the same place as each other all the time in order to function well.

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Confusion Equals Progress

Recently I thought I heard someone say these words: "confusion is progress."

Maybe that's not, in fact, what the person actually said, but that's what the words sounded like to me. As I pondered these words I became more confused about what they meant, so I spent a few moments in a state of reflection while smiling that I found myself confused about a statement about confusion!

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