Clarity, Courage, and Confidence

November 12, 2020

Likely the most important assets any of us possess are the parts who lives in our skin. It may be that getting comfortable in our skin is our most important task in this life. While it will not always be comforting, this journey will help us see the dark and light that lives within, for even the most base of parts within are not bad; they just need our help and attention.

Parts like anger, confusion, anxiety, or fear that live within are like little kids; they just want our attention so they can settle down feel heard and seen. Often these parts have taken on roles that were needed to survive abuse, neglect, or other trauma experiences early in life. They probably helped us stay alive by taking on survival behaviors, but as we get older we learn that survival behaviors were imperative to help us stay alive but not too helpful as we transition into adulthood. We can thank our parts for getting us through demanding times but they need unburdening so they can find new roles in adulthood. Parts often take us over, leading us into extreme behaviors (drinking, drugs, sex, or anything that numbs the pain), which works, but only for a short time. Often, they do not enjoy their roles but fear giving them up will bring more pain.

As we pay attention to them, by listening to them, they begin to settle down, feel safe enough to tell their stories, and feel heard and seen, sometimes for the first time ever. A wonderful thing then begins to happen in this process; the Self begin to strengthen to take over the wise (adult) functioning so the parts, often young and immature, can be free from trying to make the adult decisions they were never very good at.

As the Self takes over more of the regular decision making, the parts are free to relax and go play. In time, the whole system tends to settle down and daily functioning becomes more satisfying. We then have the opportunity to grow, finding more clarity for our lives on the inside, then the outside, we grow in courage, and slowly become more confident.

We Give What We Have; Not What Others Need

January 8, 2019

One of the most important truths I have learned in my lifetime is that I can offer others what I have, not all they need. If someone is sad, I can offer to listen, but I can’t take away their sadness. If someone has experienced loss, I can empathize, but I can’t heal them. Sometimes, the best I have to offer is to be present with their sadness or grief, which feels like so little at the time. Whenever I am in the presence of another’s pain, it is hard, yet, I want to offer what I have in hopes of helping.

Years ago I was sitting with a member of a church I was serving; we were in a hospital ER while physicians were attending to her husband, who had just shot himself. I was trying to heal her pain, mainly because I felt so uncomfortable and inadequate in that moment, by spouting off words of wisdom. Later, she informed me that she didn’t remember a word I said, but did remember my presence, which offered a little comfort. I offered her what I had; while she needed a lot more, I was able to offer something.

Never Walk Down the Back Alley of Your Mind Alone

January 8, 2019

Hope is often found when we are open to recognizing our needs and asking for help. Hope is often lost when we are isolated and trying to live our lives cut off from others. One mentor of mine once said, “David, never walk down the back alley of your mind alone.” We all need help sometimes, especially when we face a crisis.

I have often wondered why it is so hard to ask for help; maybe its because I don’t want to look weak or am afraid someone will use my vulnerability against me. In any case, I have learned over the years that when I am at those points where I need help, trustworthy people are more than willing to offer what they have. What I most often needed was simply someone to pay attention to me and what I had to say. There is something soothing about having someone stop what they are doing, make eye contact, and position their body toward me and offer attention. When one of my kids was small and fell and skinned their knee, what they wanted more than Neosporin and a band aid was my warm attention and touch with, “Oh my, that must have hurt; I am right here and not going anywhere.”

When I receive appropriate attention, I calm down and hope rises within.


Getting To Know Who Lives in Your Skin

August 7, 2018

One of the most important journeys I have ever made has been to get to know me. It appears to me that the greatest asset I have is me, so why not spend some time and energy getting to know me. I was taught early in my life that the most important things in this life were money, power, and appearance. How was I to know that these were impostors?

Many years later it became clear that these big 3 were not what I thought. After years of pain and hunger to find what I wanted in this life, I embarked on a new journey–to explore who lived in my skin. As I did, and as I learned to value and practice honesty and openness, not something as a male I was told was important, I found an energy and liberty in my life I had not known.

As I worked with therapists and spiritual directors, I began to get to know better who lived in my skin. Along the way I began to become more comfortable in my skin, accepting the different parts that came up, the beautiful and the ugly. Then I began to grow in clarity about who I was and what was really important. Next came new courage to make the hard decisions to align my behavior with my thinking.

The beauty of this process led to more clarity and courage in my relationships, my work, and my life as a whole. Life has not become easier, just more fruitful and fulfilling.

I believe as we get to know who lives in our skin and get more comfortable in our skin, clarity and courage grows and brings deeper meaning and fulfillment.


June 15, 2017

Two of the most important experiences of this life is letting another person know us and being known by another. It’s like letting someone come inside and feel like what it’s like to live and be inside our skin.  Be clear, this is no easy journey; in fact, many of us have been taught NOT to let others get that close. Yet, in my opinion, this experience surpasses most others in our life.

Intimacy is much more than having sex; it is risking letting another know what is honestly going on inside us. Couple therapy, when done well, gives partners the opportunity to let protective parts relax back and be openhearted.

There are times when we need to be protective and not be openhearted; these are times when we do not feel safe with those we are around or the time is just not right.  On the whole, the most satisfying relationships are those whose partners can risk being openhearted when feeling safe.

How About a New Way of Having a Conversation?

December 27, 2016

Dr. Croninger recently (late 2016) completed 72 hours of training experience with Toni Herbine-Blank, which focused on helping couples have a new way of having a conversation, whatever the content. Because 80% of disagreements between couples (actually between most persons) often occur because the message sent is not the one received, learning a new way to have a conversation becomes quite important.

Learning how to have an open-hearted conversation with persons close to us increases intimacy (closeness). As couples learn their patterns in conversations, they gain clarity as to how to get more of what they want for their lives. Because all of us have parts (Internal Family Systems), and those parts are often immature or unskilled, our behavior often gets us precisely the opposite of what we desire. As we learn a new way to have a conversation, we strengthen the Self within us, which is seeks to give leadership to all our parts and bring us more of what we want.

Call Dr. Croninger (405-226-8509) to set an appointment so you can receive more of what you want in your important relationships.

Two paths to satisfaction

August 10, 2014

There are two common paths that couples face to increase their marital satisfaction.  First, there is the path of learning and practicing tools, like active listening, speaking for self (“I” messages instead of “you” messages), time-outs, and conflict resolution.  As these tools are learned, then practiced, very often marital satisfaction increases.  Just like learning new tools in sports, music, or most any other discipline, these tools improve skill and competency and marriage becomes more fun and and exciting.

The second path is that of identifying hurts and losses and giving opportunity for those hurts and losses to heal.  Facing past traumas and giving them time and energy to heal is a great boost to growing relationships.  Just like a lion with a thorn in the paw, life can be frustrating and relationships raw.  When the thorn is removed, irritations and frustrations are minimized, and relationships have the opportunity to flourish.

Whether you need to learn and practice tools or heal past hurts, or both, greater couple satisfaction and enjoyment can be yours.


How to succeed at being highly miserable

January 1, 2014

Recently I read an article by Cloe Madanes, The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People: How to Succeed at Self-Sabotage (Psychotherapy Networker, Nov.-Dec., 2013, pp. 42ff).  What struck me was that if we want to be (and stay) miserable, we can make it happen.

Here’s how to succeed at being highly miserable:

  • Feed your sense of entitlement, never ask for help, stay isolated, take all that is said and done to you personally, and commit to not practicing gratitude.
  • While there are many resources for support all around us, to succeed at being highly miserable you just have to ignore them, make yourself the center of the universe, and do only those things that make you happy.
  • Even though your mind and heart are capable of growth and maturity, choose to allow only those things into your life that bring you pleasure.  Ignore the pain you cause and blame everything wrong on others.
  • Instead of keeping part of your heart open and supple, shut yourself off from everything except your own thoughts and desires.
  • Though you could give to others and relieve their suffering, practice greed and the arrogance that keeps everything you own always in your grasp.
  • Despite the power of hope, never believe things might change and get better.

Yes, practice these principles and you will be quite successful at being highly miserable.




What you feed grows

January 1, 2014

Inside all of us live two natures.  The one we feed is the one that grows.

While there are many parts within, when we work to increase self-energy, we give those parts the opportunity to heal and return to their preferred roles.  When we are wounded, experience losses, are betrayed, abused, or neglected, our self-energy is diminished or even goes into hiding.  When that happens, it like the designated leader abdicates and the children are left to run the home.  While all parts are always welcome and well-intentioned, they are not equipped to lead.  It is important to help our parts heal and invite and strengthen self-energy.  How do we do this?

This brings us to what we feed.  When we feed our fears, feed our isolation by refusing to ask for help, and feed our immature behaviors, we grow deeper into darkness.  We we feed our anger, selfishness, and sense of entitlement, we fall deeper into despair.

Yet, when we feed hope, belief in our God-given goodness, and belief that things can change and we can change, we grow larger.  When we feed the belief that a power greater than ourselves can bring a bright present and future, we grow stronger.  When we feed awareness that when we do our part with openness and honesty  that the outcome will be OK, then we grow in character and integrity.

What are you feeding?

What not to expect from marriage counseling

January 1, 2014

Getting married is easy; staying happily married is hard.  One of the overlooked requirements for getting and staying married is being an adult, which includes the maturity to give and receive.  All healthy relationships reflect the universal law of taking turns.  Just like many of us had the opportunity to learn in kindergarten, everybody gets a turn; none get to eat the whole candy bar; we share.

Don’t expect to enter marriage counseling to get your partner to change.  Enter prepared to make changes yourself.  Actually, whether your partner changes or not is none of your business.  Don’t let the pain keep you focused on blaming.

For each behavior you desire from your partner, be prepared to give your partner their desired behavior.  For each change you desire, be prepared to make a change yourself.   A satisfying marriage relationship calls each partner to make regular deposits in each other’s emotional bank accounts.  When we have sufficient emotional reserves, we can tolerate more frustration and give more grace to those close to us.

Getting married is easy; staying married in a satisfying relationship is effortful; it will make you sweat.  Yet, when we learn effective relational skills and practice them, we grow.  When we get stuck and don’t know what to do next, we ask for help.  All this requires that we be adults who are open to growing and maturing.


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