Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The thing about respect...

Respect is a word constantly in the airwaves, regularly thrown around, and continuously repeated in any situation a person feels they deserve, well, respect. Respect is also a word often taken at face value with no definition attached, to the point of, in my opinion, a fault. So, in the spirit of being on my soapbox and scooping out the meaning of things until there’s nothing left to scoop…I want to give a little tutorial… a little mini-lesson if you will… on the big-heavy-could be amazing if we actually knew what it meant and used it properly-word, respect. So, with respect, here I go…

There are two parts to the word Respect. “re” and “spect”. Let’s start with “re”.

“Re” is a prefix meaning ‘again’ or ‘again and again’, suggesting repetition. Easy enough.

“Spect” can be found in many words, for example spectacle meaning a show, display or vision. Also spectacles referring to eyeglasses or goggles. Another is spectacular; dazzling, astonishing, or breathtaking. And my favorite, spectator. One who is a viewer, watcher, observer or witness. One can conclude that “spect” is included only in words that refer to looking, seeing, observing, and such.

So, respect really means: to see, again and again. Huh. Imagine that. And all this time we thought we knew what we were talking about.

The thing about respect is that its power lies in the pause…the wonder, interest, and curiosity about another human being (or plant, or animal, or earth, or thing, or or or). Respect is not about being nice to someone, taking them more seriously, or having unfounded admiration based on physical appearance, job status, age, race, religion, ethnicity... or anything in between. It’s actually about seeing someone…past it all, looking deeper at who they are, hearing what they’re really saying, learning where they’re really coming from, paying attention what they’re about…again and again...and again. Until maybe, just maybe you get it a little bit…enough to confidently say, “I respect you”.

So darlings, I ask you... Stop, look, and listen. Wonder about the words you’re using…and why. Wonder about the people around you. Plan to respect someone only if you are prepared to find out who they really are, and kindly embrace their human-being-ness. And then, the best part… gracefully cock your head to the side and wonder about who you really are... again and again. Respect yourselves my dears. And love it every second of it.

And that's the thing about respect.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

The thing about your story...

Dear Brooke,

My question to you is regarding how much honesty is too much honesty when it comes to relationships and one's past.

You see, I went through a difficult relationship during college (emotionally/mentally abusive, unfortunately) and the healing period to get past it included some even more unfortunate behaviors--namely, a short stint (approximately one month) of being a "party girl", during which I hooked up randomly a few times (literally only a few). It didn't take me very long to realize that behaving that way felt like crap, nor was it "me"; it actually served as a wake up call to look inward and deal with my issues.

I can gladly say that was years ago and today I am a happy, normal individual--with the exception of a few occasional flashbacks of "the things that I've done". Six months ago I met my soul mate, and though it may sound crazy to say that after such a short time--I actually knew he was the one after our first date. At the very beginning of the relationship I divulged vague details about my dirty past, i.e. the fact that I had one. I did this because I wanted to be honest about what I had been through, but I only gave enough details to paint a picture. No guy loves to hear that stuff, but it was accepted and we moved past.

I believe I will end up marrying this guy, and as such something has been plaguing me: How much honesty is too much honesty? What if he asks me things? What answer do I give? Does he need to know names, dates, and positions? I don't think that information would be helpful to anyone. In a world where people are getting married in their late 20's and 30's, we all have some kind of past life before we meet our husbands and wives. How are we meant to deal with honesty about our past? Is there a rule of thumb regarding what we should tell? I hate to lie ever, but what is the harm when the information serves no benefit to anyone?

I look forward to your response.

Greater Good

Dear Greater Good,

No warming up. No small talk. Let’s unpack this baby right frikin’ now.

Your if-it-didn’t-happen-exactly-the-way-it-did-or-you-wouldn’t-be-as-fabulous-as-you-are story… journey…process…was just described by you, little miss good-or-bust as “unfortunate” and “dirty”. OK…could anyone judge themselves more right now? I don’t think so. You need the biggest hug ever, and at the same time… a major ah-ha moment. So, let’s have it.

Seriously my love, who is really judging your past… your man? Nope…It’s you. You are judging your past so much that you are assuming that others will too. You were emotionally abused and coped with it in a way that many humans did the best you could with what you had, and I’m proud of you. Yes, really. But now, you are emotionally abusing yourself. The truth is, once you accept, honor, and respect your past and your journey, so will everyone else.

I know you’re looking for answers…for me to tell you what to do. This actually isn’t about lying or telling the truth or the details or whatever… this is about something that goes way deeper than that. It seems to me that the reason you’re troubled by what to tell and what not to tell is you’re looking for some validation of your story. You want someone to say, “It’s OK, I love you regardless of what you did”. The truth is, my darling, you don’t love you regardless of what you did. You don’t love your past; you don’t respect the choices you made. You are justifying yourself all over the place… “approximately one month” “literally only a few” and right now, in this moment I want you to pause. Take a breath. And listen carefully…

One of the reasons you were able to realize how special this man is, and allow yourself to fall in love is because of your story, because of all the things you did and went through...simple and complicated. If you didn’t do things that felt wrong, how the heck would you know what feels right? It’s time to thank your story. It’s time to celebrate your past. It’s time to love yourself not only regardless of your past, but because of it. Yes, really.

The thing about your story is that it’s well, yours...and it’s important to treat it with care, and big time love. You get to decide what to do with it, where to put it, where not to put it. Your story is a precious gem, a true gift that this life has given you to become your best self. Your story is about a woman who has journeyed through crap relationships and come out alive…a woman who has made decisions that seemed perfect at the time, and learned from all of them…a woman who has a juicy rich beautiful past that made her one strong and capable cookie…a story that is only hers to judge.

I invite you to be proud of your story... especially the parts that you aren’t proud of. Once you embrace this, you’ll know exactly who to tell and how much to share.

Love love love LOVE,

Send your questions to Your identity will be kept confidential.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The thing about the things we hold onto...

My plane was delayed. It happens. So I found myself with unplanned extra time, walking around the airport with my ridiculously heavy bag slung around my shoulder. I thought that I had packed everything in so well…so thoughtfully placed and organized. I even experimented handling the weight by picking it up a few times before I left the house… it passed all initial tests. But the longer I held it, the more I believed that a damaging neck or upper back injury was about to occur. The combination of my bra strap digging into my precious shoulder with the bag strap perfectly placed right over it was just too much to take. Periodic breaks became necessary.

During one of my important pauses I found myself thinking...why do we hold onto so much?

We don’t only hold onto stuff, we hold onto feelings, experiences, pasts. We hold onto guilt, hurt, anger, grudges. We hold onto what we said, what someone else said, what we wish we said. We hold onto shoulda’ woulda’ coulda’ all day long. …And the list goes on. But if we’re holding onto such unbelievably outrageously heavy things, isn’t there a point when we have to just put it all down… and breathe?

The thing about the things we hold onto is that they stay and hang out on the surface of our world...more than we care to admit. Even if you think you’ve been wildly successful at pushing it all down, pushing it all away, hiding it all so no one can see… sorry to burst your bubble darling dear…the only person you are fooling is your own precious self. No matter how hard we try to push it all down… certain things are simply indigestible.

Our bodies, our spirits, our souls… these gorgeous things are not built to digest things like guilt, anger, fear, hate, regret. Just like our stomachs can’t digest poison… we have to get it all pumped out… or the consequences are, well, ugly. So it all stays there, at the forefront, poisoning your every moment. The held onto stuff inches it’s way into whatever we do or say or experience. The held onto stuff takes up so much space in our bodies that we can’t invite the good stuff in…we are full of undigested crap. I know, fun.

So, you have undigested-held onto-past-crap that is influencing you more than you were willing to realize…and now you’re admitting it silently to yourself with a little smirk on your face. Yes, you. Love love love it. Welcome to being human. Congratulations, you’ve arrived. But that’s not me giving you permission to hold onto it forever. This is me caring about you like crazy and letting you know I get it while at the same time saying… it’s time to put down your bag honey. Take a breath.

Consider what you hold onto. Be curious. Why do you need it? Why do you want it? How is it serving you? Is it making your day, your life, your self… better? Really? What would your day, your life, your self… look like, feel like, be like if for just a minute, you let it go?

And that’s the thing about the things we hold onto.

Love like crazy,

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The thing about expecting everything from one person...

One of the most important things my ex-boyfriend said to me during our relationship was “I can’t be your boyfriend, and your girlfriends.” I had no idea he was so deep, hence our breakup, but as it turns out that lesson stuck with me…

So often we look to our partners to fulfill everything, all of our needs, all of our wants, all of our all of our. That’s a tall frikin’ order, don’t you think? Putting that kind of expectation on one human being is overwhelming to even think about. The expectation to be everything all folded into one body is not only a bummer for the person who is supposed to be super-human, but dangerous for the person placing the expectations as well.

The thing about expecting everything from one person is that it’s dangerous…dangerous because we are bound to be let down. And being let down because of expectations we created out of thin air all on our own...well that just sucks. I’m certainly not saying settle for a partner because no one can be that great anyway... Believe me, that’s not my stance. I do think amazing healthy juicy fabulous relationships are built on finding one ridiculously unbelievable person, being best friends and lovers and and and and… oh, and that too. But it’s important to think of life as a soup. With only 1 ingredient, well, that’s just bound to disappoint.

It’s healthy to add other ingredients into your world, into your life soup if you will. The base can be your relationship if that’s where you're at on your path, or your yoga community or your kids or your mom… whatever is a fit for your world. But add some friends, some purpose, some hobbies. Join a knitting circle, volunteer, have stimulating conversations going on, coffee dates, and even that really scary overwhelming thing we call…solitude. Ya, even have some of that. Believe me, you're everything person will thank you.

We don’t want anyone to look to us for all the answers, all the time. We don’t want to be 100% responsible for 1 person’s happiness and life purpose…that’s just way too much pressure. So why do we do it to our partners…or our 1 best friend…or our mom? One person just can’t do everything. But they love you either way. So, stir your soup darlings. Yes, it’s that important.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The thing about honesty...

Brooke –
I need to ask about this because so often we are asked for ‘an honest opinion’ or ‘tell me honesty if’, etc.

This happened recently with a close friend. She had been to visit my home and we had a nice weekend. Upon her return home, she wrote and said “I had the distinct feeling you are not happy with me. I felt it when I left your place but it was really strong when I woke up. Am I imagining things or am I correct? Did I do something wrong while I was there?”

This friend has always said one of the things she loves best about me my HONESTY. So after much consideration, I replied--

“Now how to answer your question… I am so glad you worded it “not happy with me” rather than mad or angry. I have to be honest BUT keep in mind it is only a small thing which is why it was never brought up. On the way home from the restaurant – the conversation went to Ford Motor Company – trashing transmissions, power-trains, etc….. I did not feel it was appropriate to ‘knock down’ a company your hosts’ worked for and are collecting a pension from. As you know we are “True Ford Blue” and the comments we not appreciated. Since it truly was a small thing – I let it go and asked my hubby to do the same. Nothing to worry about – it is now in the past! You asked so I had to be honest (something that you’ve always admired) otherwise it would have never been mentioned.”

I did not hear from this person for 2 days, so I sent a note asking if I should be worried. Her response was “No, not to worry. Some things are just better dropped than continued. I think that's one of them. (((HUGS)))”

Looks like honesty wasn’t something she wanted to hear. From her response, she doesn’t agree with how we felt. When feelings are hurt (like our case), it’s how we perceived the comment rather than why they made the comment. Am I right?

When I got her response back, I was surprised that it didn’t say “Oh sorry you felt that way” or something. Her response leads me to believe that she doesn’t see our “side”, isn’t the least bit remorseful and is now maybe a little mad at me for being honest. Is that your take? In my opinion, feelings are genuine and can neither be “right” or “wrong” – they just are!!

I guess my question to you is – people really don’t want honesty do they? It would have been far better for the relationship to have just replied – NO nothing is wrong! And move on.

Honest Hannah

Dear Honest Hannah,

How bold and beautiful of you to put yourself out there for such an important and often confusing topic… your experience and example illustrates what so many of us experience. So go you. You are officially a life teacher. And PS. Thank you so much for sharing your own personal emails- they’re really going to help us get down to the nitty gritty… in a good way… I hope.

So there is the cliché “honesty is the best policy” and I agree for the most part. But in SoapBox-World there are 2 main categories of honesty. Take ‘em if you like, leave ‘em if you don’t. First is outer-world-honesty…the details, specifics, quotes, things that happen in the situation, etc. and second is inner-world-honesty…the feelings, emotions, things that go on inside of us, etc.

Outer-world-honesty is way easier to express. This happened, she said this, he said that…bla bla. It’s inner-world-honesty that can get sticky and get us all tripped up on what honesty really looks like... let’s use your experience to illustrate.

In the outer world, your friend said negative things about an organization you are invested in, which seemed inappropriate to you at the time, under the circumstances. OK. It’s so great that you shared that with her because outer-world-honesty really does clear up some confusion sometimes, right? So that’s fabulous. But there’s more…

It seems to me, that although you were honest about the outer-world details of the situation, you were far from honest about the follow up you were hoping for, and about your inner-world experience. You didn’t lie my love, you just left out a few things. You didn’t tell her your feelings were hurt, you didn’t tell her you wanted to know if she understood where you were coming from. You didn’t let her know that you were hoping for a response. You didn’t tell her you wanted her to say she was sorry. Sometimes we don’t share our inner-world honesty because we aren’t convinced our feelings are justified or reasonable, so we say things like… “Nothing to worry about – it is now in the past”

So, what happened was…. Your friend said something hurtful and asked you what had happened. Then you emailed the specifics, like what she said and when, but gave her permission to simply move on. Then, when she said ok, you were upset and confused. So when you say you were honest... you weren’t completely honest darlin’, right? And it led to you being more hurt than you were in the first place.

The thing about honesty is that it’s great and helpful and delicious and organic and amazing…if you are actually being honest…like, fully. And sitting with whatever happens as a result. The complete honest answer would have stated the outer-world details and then been followed by your inner-world feelings and experiences of the situation.

Here is an example of how you can include your inner world honesty: “There was a comment made about Ford in a negative light. You are my friend and I care so much about you and our friendship. I was hurt and upset about the comment because I didn’t feel noticed for the work and effort my family and I have put into Ford. I know it may seem like a small detail, but I also know you will understand where I’m coming from. I really appreciate you initiating this conversation.”…and so on

The most important thing to keep in mind when expressing inner world honesty; use way way way more “I” statements that “You” statements. “You” statements should be kept to a crazy minimum and only used in a positive light. No one wants to have a finger pointing in their face, be cut down, put down, lectured, or made to feel bad. If they feel that way at all, your communication will probably be misunderstood, unheard, or unread all together. If you remind your friends, family, or whoever you have a challenge with that they are important to you (which they are) and you care about the relationship you have with them (which you do) and that you have confidence that they are the kind of person who will understand your point of view…then they will be standing on confident solid ground and are more prepared to hear what you have to say. Don’t lie to them, of course… but just remember your relationship and all of the great things about that person…and say them.

So many of us, in a hurtful situation, just sit back and wait for the other person to miraculously know what’s going on in our inner-world. We get the crazy idea that others know our buttons, how they are pushed, and when they push them. We convince ourselves that others know the depth of our stories and our emotions and what affects us and to what level. Our feelings are not floating in the air for anyone to see, to understand, to respond to…unless we share them.

So, we have found ourselves here. At this place of different levels or shall we say, worlds of honesty. Sometimes, it feels best to only include one world. Such as, leaving the details out and just talking about how you and the other person feel. Or, sometimes it’s really just a silly misunderstanding and you can forgo the deep thoughts and clear things up with a quick detail. But, most of the time, a balance of both is necessary.

Remember, the most important person to be fully honest with…yourself. And to me, the only way to do that is to ask lot’s of questions and as always…get curious about yourself. Honest Hannah, you done good.


Oh, and PS to you and everyone… your best bet is to make some notes to yourself, and then if it’s an option, call or meet a friend in person to talk about things. Email, text, etc. can get confusing and may lead to a greater risk of being misunderstood. Just food for thought…

Send your questions to!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The thing about rules...

When SoapBox Therapy began, I made a rule for myself. I will post every day. I quickly realized that rule was completely unrealistic, as are many I tend to set for myself. It took moving through some major discomfort and working my inner-self-muscles- to finally listen to my gut, to my inner voice… and take a step back to a more realistic place.

So, a Tuesday/Thursday posting regimen began. I allowed myself to be real and took off my superwoman cape. It worked…for me. Then, it didn’t. Last week, life set itself up differently. Not better, not worse. Just a little different. So, again I found myself starring at my rules right in their ugly judgmental face. Ugh.

It got me thinking…what happens to us when the rules aren’t the right fit? Not only the rules we set up for ourselves (I will write a fabulous interesting post every Tuesday and Thursday for the rest of my life)…

But the rules the our dating-society set up for us (Your new boyfriend/girlfriend shalt be considered a “rebound” by all of your friends until the proper mourning time is provided after an ugly break up)…

And also the rules our material-society set up for us (you will have those jeans, or you are a fat ugly loser who doesn’t have it together…or you’re alternative)…just to name a few.

When we come in contact with a rule that just doesn’t feel right for us, we get stuck. Literally, it’s like either we follow the rules, or we become paralyzed with confusion and feel unsure and insecure and everything in between. It’s as if the rules, whether good or bad, help us to stay on an effortless road-a strait shoot, for so long. And while on that road, we don’t work the muscles of our inner voice, we don’t have conversations with it, we don’t check in. We just go. Blindly. So our ability to hear our inner voice gets weak, and our strength to trust it…even weaker. Sometimes, we forget that it’s even there. So sad.

And then…in comes a situation where the rule worked before, but now it makes your skin crawl. So Mr. or Mrs. Inner voice starts screaming your name like mad to get your frikin’ attention. “This rule isn’t working for meeeee, helloooooooo!!!!!” And then, you freeze. You don’t know what to do. You don’t know which direction to go. The scary truth: We trust the rules more than we trust ourselves.

Your inner voice is asking you to improvise. To create a new path…your path, and go with it. Yes, you need to get creative, listen carefully to your gut, and then proceed. A life that works takes work my loves… I know, shocking.

The thing about rules is that sometimes they don’t work and they need not be followed. And that’s OK. Maybe you meet your soul mate a few days after you break up with the partner you were with for what-seems-like-forever. And maybe that’s perfect… for you… with that person…at that moment. For example.

I’m not saying that all of society’s rules are simply wrong- I know that’s not the case. I’m saying, decide for yourself. And I’m not saying just forget it and let go and never do things you say you’re going to do cause your just not in the mood…or vise versa. I mean, have some integrity people, right?

I’m just saying that sometimes we say we’re going to do things, or not do things… and then that choice ends up feeling so utterly off that our inner voices start to scream and pray that we’ll quiet down the insane-obnoxious-paralyzing-judgment going on inside of ourselves long enough to listen…and shift.

So, get organized and get clear...ask yourself not only about the rules others set for you, that just don’t feel right—but ask yourself, “What are my rules?” … and then loosen up your grip and be prepared for the possibility that one day, you’ll throw them out the window. And maybe the next day you’ll go out, find them, and re-attach them to your best-self-reality. Who knows? Allow yourself to be fluid, be in the moment…be human.

And that’s the thing about rules.


Send your questions to!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The thing about doing what you love...

The thing about doing what you love is that you really should. Like really, really. And should is my least favorite word. But I’m shoulding. It just feels right in this context. Go with it.

Yes. Do what you love. Not so simple, I realize. But what other option do you have? Joy and passion… those are sustainable. Discomfort and dissatisfaction… ugh, that stuff is like poison. So, in an effort to begin a “do what you love or bust” revolution… I decided to step up to the plate. Here I go…

I love getting on my soapbox. It’s true. I love writing to you, for you, with you…I frikin’ love it. I love wondering who is being affected by which post? Who is getting curious about themselves? Who is growing? I love every part of this. I could cry of joy. Seriously.

I also love helping in person. I love creating a relationship with a beautiful human being and seeing them grow and fall in love with themselves and become the person they want and hope to be… right before my very eyes.

That being said… I’m so excited to announce that beginning today, September 1, 2009 I am officially taking private practice clients! Certain times of the week I will step off the box and onto the couch in my cute office in San Francisco. Life is good.

A little about the way I work...on the couch. I integrate as many different theories and ideas as there are different people in the world. Everything works for someone, but no one thing works for everyone. Get it? I see everyone who walks in my office as a separate amazing complex human being with light and fabulousness inside… even if they don’t. Yet. And the most important voice in the room is the quiet one coming from inside of the person sitting across from me…

I love Carl Jung, feel very strongly about humanistic psychology, and connect to relational therapy as well as self-psychology (Oh, the fun you’ll have on Google today…) My specialty: Working with, treating, and strengthening relationships of all kinds…including the relationship you have to yourself. Love it.

So… to begin this exciting venture I am introducing a group called “The Meaning Of Wife” The group is for women in romantic relationships of all stages... single and contemplating commitment, serious or engaged and considering marriage, married and discovering an expanded identity, recently divorced and reflecting on a new chapter in life...just to name a few. This group is going to be small and deeply supportive--a wonderful way for women to explore both their relationships and themselves.

Oh, and it's 12 sessions. Wednesday nights from 6-7:30pm. Starting September 23, 2009.

My darling readers… please consider this group for your friends, family, or co-workers in San Francisco, Oakland, Marin County, or anywhere in the Bay Area! Pass along the information about the group, the blog, and and and… and tell them to contact me! Questions, concerns, pricing... just call.

I want the group to be small and intimate…so it will fill up fast. Thank you. You are my starlets! My private practice line is 415.294.4044.

And that’s the thing about doing what you love.


An important disclaimer: Brooke received her master’s degree in counseling psychology and is a registered MFTi (marriage and family therapist intern #55548) working towards full licensure in the state of California. SoapBox Therapy is not part of the California MFT licensure process. SoapBox Therapy is commentary and advice based on Brooke's personal opinions and insight and should be regarded as such. SoapBox Therapy is in no way related to or reflective of the opinions or insight of Brooke Miller’s private practice supervisor, Cynthia Hoffman LMFT.