Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
I was recently interviewed by our local CBS TV affliate about a website that purports having an affair can be maritally beneficial. You can have a 'fling' and it will be kept secret, while your marriage remains 'intact.' The website has been "marketed" on Oprah (I mean do you really think people go on Oprah's show for anything else??) and the website boasts of thousands of 'satisfied' customers.
The TV reporter ask me, "What is your opinion of the claims of this website?" I stated, "He is nuts! Did you notice that it is a man who came up with this idea...and why would anyone 'pay' $450.00 to join his website for an extra marital affair when they can 'pay' an escort service less money than that?" Of course we went on to discuss extra marital affairs more fully, why people have them, should they be confessed, do men have them more than women, and is the sex better in an affair than at home. Short answers to the questions you ask?
1. Affairs are 'had' for a myriad of reasons not the least of which he/she (the infidel, to use Frank Pittman's great word) can not be honest with themselves and with their spouse and this lack of 'self confrontation' leads to dishonesty and destruction.
2. Should they be confessed? I would have to confess because personal integrity is a core value of mine, but some people are more pragmatic and would choose not to.
3. Men have more affairs than women? I think the data probable supports this, but you would be suprised (maybe you wouldn't!) how many women are infidels as well.
4. Is the affair sex better than sex at home? I have never had a client tell me the sex was better. Good sex is much more than 'genital response cycles!' I remember asking my heart doctor at University of Alabama at Birmingham's Kirklin Clinic, "Doc, will I be able to play golf after this surgery?" And to my amazement he said, "Why sure...there will be no problem!" My surprised response? "Well Doc, that is wonderful news!" Little did he know that I have never played golf!
The CBS reporter asked, "What makes a perfect marriage?" I said, "There is no perfect marriage because there are no perfect people. However, marriage is the mechanism by which imperfect people are made 'more perfect' ...that is if they can endure the perfecting struggle!"
So here I am, being worked on again...there is so much to work on!! Oh, but I love the result! 32 years of marital bliss? No way!! But there have been some incredibly blissful moments and there are more to come!! Onward and upward...I think I ought to take up golf?
'That's absurd and patronizing in itself,' Armond White, chief film critic of The New York Press, said of Phillips' comments.
The reason for the discrepancy, said White, who is black, is simple.
'Some black people find 'Precious' offensive and they don't find 'The Blind Side' offensive,' he said. 'There's more humanity there. 'Precious' is like a horror show, a freak show. There's nothing but misery, debased behavior and degradation. One film is about Samaritan-ism, humanism, kindness, love and brotherhood, and the other is about degradation and ignorance."
The jaded spirit of some 'experts' must mean their hearts are empty of any joy. Go watch Blindside and see if you see color. I guess you can see color or you can see humanity...maybe that depends upon how 'jaded' you are.
Monday, November 9, 2009
I remember my Mom's fear and how this was in the news...even though in central Ohio, our lights never flickered!
A 230-kilovolt transmission line near Ontario, Canada, tripped at 5:16 p.m., which caused several other heavily loaded lines also to fail. The dominos fell and a cascading failure of additional lines which resulted in the eventual breakup of the entire Northeastern transmission network. Thirty-million people in eight U.S. states and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec were affected by the blackout. By morning, when the sun was coming up, power was restored to all. Wonder if there any others who remember the night the lights went out in the North East?
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Twenty-four years ago this week I went with my dad to the hospital to view the results of his liver scan. Anxiety, worries, and fears abounded as Faith, my mom, and I stood in front of doctor's viewer as he placed each scanned image, slice by slice on the white surface.
Four years earlier my dad had a mole removed from the back of his scalp. The doctor sliced it off and told mom that is was a carcinoma, malignant melanoma. And with that news, he sent dad home, and we, not knowing any better, resumed living with little or no worry. Our doctor did not seem worried and neither were we.
Fast forward to that day twenty-four years ago. We had just moved to Louisville, Kentucky, purchase our starter home, was in the process of adopting our first son, when mom said that dad was not feeling well. At age 63, he was planning to retire and he and mom were to spend the next few years camping. "The truck" had been purchased and a Coleman 'pop-up' camper was bought...they were planning to go in style. Mom, 10 years dad's junior, was going to work for a few more years and then they were going to enjoy 'retirement.'
We did not know that cancer was circulating through my dad's body and the untreated melanoma of four years earlier had come back. I will never forget anxiously looking down the scanned images, not really sure of what I was looking for, but saw 'gray', 'gray', 'gray', 'gray'...each of the slides were 'gray.' But on the fourth row, some twenty-eight or thirty images down, there was on that had a black dot, and the next had a larger black dot, and finally there were several with several black dots. We knew, dad had cancer in his liver. The next day we stayed for 'the bone scan.' The doctor came in and said, "His bones look like honey-comb...it is all over his bones."
The next seven weeks were filled with pain and pleasure...Nathan Wesley came home, dad slowly died. Christmas morning at 6:40 he died. Less than eight weeks after the 'diagnosis', once again, of malignant melanoma.
You need to know, this cancer can be 'cured' if it is caught and treated agressively and adequately! Lisa M. (a very dear friend) is living proof...some ten years after her 'mole' and surrounding skin was cut away in surgery. If you have a history (family or other wise) of skin 'issues' be sure you get checked yearly...let your doctor's look you over. Had dad's first doctor has treated him properly, he would have lived several more years...what might have been but never was.
Click the link associated with this blog and learn a bit more about the savage cancer that took dad's life...of course, the camper was not used, the truck was not driven, and retirement was not enjoyed and Christmas has never quite been the same.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
My wife ministers to a large number of Alzheimer's patients and their families every week and has witnessed first hand the challenge, the joys, the sadness, the grief, and the love that can be experienced during this experience. If you know someone who faces this challenge of Alzhiemer's, order them a copy (or download your free PDF version) and give them a 'cold drink of water' on a very thirsty journey.
Do not ask me to remember.
Don't try to make me understand.
Let me rest and know you're with me.
Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.
I'm confused beyond your concept.
I am sad and sick and lost.
All I know is that I need you
To be with me at all cost.
Do not lose you patience with me.
Do not scold or curse or cry.
I can't help the way I'm acting,
Can't be different 'though I try.
Just remember that I need you,
That the best of me is gone.
Please don't fail to stand beside me,
Love me 'till my life is done.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Many therapists see numbers of people who are depressed and who 'feel' like they have no efficacy (no power to determine the direction of their moods etc.) and often have to swim up stream to see their life improve. Here is evidence that we with depression can make some small changes that can impact how we feel, think, and how our bodies work. Remember this is 'food' for you mind (brain food) as well as your heart. I may be powerless in what life throws my way but I am not helpless in how I respond...this small piece may help you solve your puzzle of depression. Fish, nuts, fruit (I eat a cup of frozen blueberries every day), and vegetables will reshape your mood.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Today Susan Johnson began with “there is an exquisite logic to our deepest emotions” and that family therapy has missed the boat by not addressing issues of love. She immediately challenged MFTs to expand their understanding of therapy to realize reducing conflict and lowering reactive is not ‘good enough’ therapy. Small emotional signals from our partner such as a lift of an eyebrow can turn a marriage into a tornado. Flexible joyful connection can bring deep fulfillment to our families. Are there basic mechanisms of change that cut across models of therapy…couples that move into to deeper emotions in therapy will move into deeper sense of personal fulfillment and more meaningful relationships. We need to know the core issues of love and bonding. As systems theorists we need to know the inner loop of the interplay of emotions and inner cognitions as well as the outer loop of how people related to each other in their interpersonal world. Set our sights higher as therapists…instead of just reducing conflicts and lower reactivity to creating nurturance and love. The founding fathers of our field had no understanding of love and nurturance.
Some take home thoughts: We are attaching peoples and there is much of the tissue in our brains is dedicated to detecting the emotional signals of those we are close to. We need a special connection with others…lovers regulate each other physiology. Connection with an attachment figure anesthetizes the shocks of the world. There is only effective or ineffective dependency. We do not grow out of dependency. If we are securely attached we will be more confident and resilient in the stresses of life.
Love relationships are defined by emotional responsiveness and the question or all questions, “Are you there for me?” If you have this sense of felt security all other problems can be managed safely. How you handle security and disconnection enables us to handle all other issues in life. Sue also challenged the present status of MFT by stating “we don’t need magic questions” (a gentle poke at Solution Focus Therapy?) but we much engage in the understanding of love. She also took Minuchin and Nichol’s to task by challenging their ‘we must understand the limits of relationships’ and stating as therapists we must help couples create ‘safe haven connections’ so they can explore the limitless possibilities of human relationships.
Friday, October 2, 2009
It is exciting to see Marriage and Family Therapists doing research in the area. Julie Ramisch, Robert Hock, and Tina Timm, found that parents with an ASD child wanted to improve their relationship with their child (41%), wanted to improve their relationship with each other (32%), wanted to discuss individual concerns such as depression or anxiety (32%), wanted parenting advice (20%), and wanted parenting tools to use in the future (18%). Family therapist can offer assistance and coaching is all of these areas.
The take home message for MFT is even though research points to stressful family situations, good things can and do happen for families with a child with an ASD. The need for competent professionals who deal with the whole family is great and thorough assessment and effective intervention can help families adapt and succeed.
One family stated: “I suppose if it doesn’t – destroy is a pretty harsh word – but disabilities can really strain a marriage unlike anything’s else, I think a child’s disabilities, and you either become stronger, I think, in a relationship or it probably disintegrates. So if you survive all those things there is not a lot that can come between you in life that would really cause strain on a marriage.”
When working with ODD Children there are two main therapeutic GOALS: Help them become more age appropriate in their interactional style and help to disempower them in a healthy ways. A couple of caveats are worth noting here:
1. YOU CAN DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD: if you take a kid that is weak in authority and take away even more authority
2. YOU CAN DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD: if you take a kid that is powerful and give them more power.
With both of those caveats in mind and with the overall therapeutic GOALS I will discuss what is ODD and how it looks in within the family structure. The American Psychiatric Association defines ODD as
A. A pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least 6 months, during which four (or more) of the following are present:
(1) often loses temper
(2) often argues with adults
(3) often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules
(4) often deliberately annoys people
(5) often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
(6) is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
(7) is often angry and resentful
(8) is often spiteful or vindictive
AND only if the behavior occurs more frequently than is typically observed in individuals of comparable age and developmental level AND the disturbance in behavior causes clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning AND the behaviors do not occur exclusively during the course of a Psychotic or Mood Disorder AND (almost done with this long definition) if child is not diagnosed with a Conduct Disorder, AND, if the individual is age 18 years or older, criteria are not met for Antisocial Personality Disorder. (Reprinted in part from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition 1994 American Psychiatric Association).
Whee…now with that in mind we need to add three more components and it is in these THREE ADDITIONAL PIECES where the helpful information comes from:
1. ODD Children are process oriented, that is, during confrontation they are more focused on the process rather than on the outcome of the confrontation. Process orientation is different from outcome orientation…it is not more or less healthy but it is about what gets communicated in the process of the confrontation. There is a MISMATCH between the process oriented kids and the outcome oriented parents. Now as you think about a confrontation between an ODD CHILD and her parents ask yourself three questions:
a. Who determines the timing…that is who controls when the discussion/conflict/confrontation takes place?
b. Who determines the content and direction during the confrontation...that is who determines what is discussed and the direction the discussion goes during the confrontation.
c. Who determines the mood during the confrontation…ah, yes, who controls the emotional atmosphere in which the confrontation occurs.
You can see that ODD children, who are process oriented, determine the timing, content, direction and the mood of the confrontation and the parent is totally derailed, disempowered, disheveled, disheartened, discouraged, etc.
Let’s look a bit more at the differences between outcome orientation versus process orientation. I think this illustration will serve to distinguish one orientation from the other. If you were to visit the IRS and the goal of your visit is to be sure you owe no more money then during that visit you were outcome oriented. However, if your goal in visiting the IRS was to push the emotional buttons of the IRS agent and to tell him how mean and unfair he is, then your visit would be characterized as being process oriented.
2. ODD children have a strong win/lose perspective…or they have a win/lose orientation…the ODD kid is expecting to win. The ODD kid approaches confrontational situations with a win/lose perspective! It is not about determining the outcome of the confrontation but about determining the PROCESS of the confrontation. ODD children have the MYTH of WINNING that drives most of their confrontational energy…it is the MYTH they are they are winning if they control the process! The “common sense” of the ODD teenager is that because I have pushed your buttons, you emotionally reacted, I have gotten my way and therefore I have won! The ODD kids have bought into the notion there must be a winner and a loser…when you apply this to emotional relationships, of course, it does not work.
It is very important for adults to recognize the fact that they may have this same perspective when they have conflicts between themselves! The ‘common sense’ notion that adults often have is seen in “IF you just had enough insight/if you just understood my point of view then we would be OK (or at least I would be OK) I would win!”
3. ODD children have a HIGH Hierarchy…that is they argue like emotionally immature adults...they believe and act like they are in charge! In fact when you witness a live confrontation between ODD teenagers and their parents it is very difficult to determine who the ADULTS are and who are the CHILDREN!
When ODD children get better (whether with family therapy or by themselves) then both the child and the parents begin to act more age appropriate in their interactional style…it feels more age appropriate!
Some things to remember:
ODD kids have a basic distrust of the adult system…they are unsure of the motivations of adults and there are a lot of different ways young people can come to that basic distrust.
The best special education teachers have lots of facial expression, lots of warmth, and there is no question of about their benevolent intent.
OPPOSITIONAL BEHAVIOR occurs within interactions with authority figures, therefore individual therapy is not beneficial for ODD kids. ODD happens between people…these ODD interactions don't happen in the imagination of the kid.
Many time it is MORE EFFECTIVE to coach adults rather than coaching the kids.
KIDS view yelling different than ADULTS do…ADULTS see yelling as raising the voice while KIDS view yelling as saying anything critical of them…
ODD BEHAVIOR is statistically associated with ADD/ADHD, with problems of SELF SOOTHING at an early age, and COLIC at an early age.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
What you are in secret is who you really are. What you are when no one else is looking is who you truly are. Embedded within my heart is the deep desire to be a person of integrity and authenticity...I know there is phoniness in all of us but the drive to be whole, fully integrated and a person of true character is within us all. Congruence refers to our ability to be completely genuine, real, and authentic.... whatever the situation of the moment. You and I are not expected to be a completely congruent person all the time, as such perfection is impossible. However, as we move toward that, we become more functional, experience greater freedom, and possess greater levels of psychological health.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I have often professed my faith in GOD'S unconditional love for me while still living in and being guided by fear. The "if" questions that have driven my mind and my life are many; "if I don't make the mortage", "if she gets sick", "if he dies", "if I lose my joy", "if my 401-k continues to tank", "if an earthquake occurs", "if a hurricane hits", "what am I going to do if...", "what if someone breaks into my house", "what if........"
Brennan Manning simply says, "once these questions guide our lives, we take out a second mortgage in the house of fear..."
Many seek safety from fear in many places but not their heart...only as you find your heart can you experience the unconditional love intended just for you! Safety is not found in 'success', companions, alcohol, money, work, fame, nor celebrity status!
I have found a safe place within my heart...a tranquil place where there is peace, serenity, and joy. And my heart can experience the love and acceptance that brings the serenity meant just for me...
Friday, August 14, 2009
Notice what Paul has 'struggles' with:
1. Attempted to control or stop worrying...
2. Can't stop worrying even if it does not seem to solve anything...
3. All keyed up...
4. Easily fatigued...
5. Difficulty concentrating...
7. Problems sleeping...
Let me offer a radically new way of looking at this problem of anxiety. Thoughts and feelings of fear, panic, anxiety are intense, unpleasant, overwhelming, and often terrifying. But the thoughts and feelings are not the problem! I repeat, the thoughts and feelings of terror, panic, fear, and anxiety are NOT the problem. The problem is the rigid, toxic, avoidance of fear and anxiety. The majority of research today shows that excessive avoidance is the most important toxic element for morphing worries, anxieties, and fears into truly debilitating disorders.
Toxic avoidance of fear looks different depending upon the person or situation. Some avoid people, places, activities, or situations that "make them uncomfortable" and might lead to anxious feelings. Others use substances (three or four glasses of wine will "work", as will Lortabs, etc...) to minimize the effect and 'turn off the brain.'
Einstein (as in Albert) is reported to have said, "problems cannot be solved by thinking within the framework in which they were created..." With this notion let me offer a radical new way to look at the problems of worries, anxieties, and fears. It begins with acceptance. Yes, acceptance...accepting the 'fact' that life is full of situations that lead to fear and worry. Accepting the fact that I am able to face my fear and not allow it to define who I am and how I live! In fact, let me ask a question that all my patients hear: "Is it possible for someone who has SOCIAL PHOBIA to be a successful public speaker?" Of course you know the answer and it is YES! What is the answer? It begins with the attitude of acceptance.
The Serenity Prayer states: "accepting hardship as a pathway to peace and taking this world, as it is, not as I would have it..." That is the beginning of the pathway to serenity.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Children are resilient and they can thrive in a divorced home. A proper parental environment that offers a safe and reasonably anxiety free ‘growing space’ allow children to blossom. One of the first ways that a parent can help a child is by telling him or her about the divorce. Remember, children of all ages will be affected by their parent's divorce. Following are some tips on telling the children.
Telling the Children
• No matter what the age, it is important that the parents tell the children what is going on.
• If one parent has played the main parenting role, then it is more logical for that parent to break the news to the child, lessening the disturbance.
• It is very important that no blame be assigned to either parent for the separation, because this may indirectly give the child a reason to choose sides. It is unhealthy for the child to feel that there is a good and bad parent.
• As a parent you must explain to the children that they are not to blame for the divorce. Initially almost all children feel that they are responsible. The parent must explain that the divorce is between the parents and not the children and parents. If this is explained correctly, the children will also realize that if they are not responsible for the divorce, then they cannot be responsible for their parents reconciling.
• Don't, I repeat don’t tell the children that you are divorcing unless you and your spouse are absolutely certain that the decision is final.
• It is important that you tell the children about the divorce when you can be together for a long period of time. A non-school day would probably be the most preferred time, because they are going to feel very alone and they will need someone there to feel a sense of safety and security.
• After you have told them the news, you may, without going into great detail, want to give them some idea what they should expect in the future. A child may want to know about school and future living arrangements.
• If they ask "why?" this usually means why is this happening to me. It does not mean why you are getting a divorce. The children initially really don't need to know why, so eliminate details.
• Be sure to ask them if they have any questions. They may have questions, but will be reluctant to respond at that time. Remember, it is important to field questions again and again.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Well I wonder how long it will take before National News picks up this story. We have the story of a police officer arresting a noted Harvard professor and the ensuing paranoia over racial insensitivity and a president who stated the police acted 'stupidly.' I wonder what President Obama would say about Mobile, Alabama police arresting a 81 year old female for urinating behind a clump of trees? She will be 82 when she stands for trial!! I guess if the police officer in Cambridge acted stupidly then the officers in Mobile acted in a similar fashion. The charge you ask? Public lewdness...oh yeah?
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Now the 'new' study just released this week posits divorce can make you sick. Researchers analyzed data from nearly 9,000 adults nationwide, ages 51 to 61, and found those who had been divorced or widowed suffered 20 percent more chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer, than individuals who were currently married. Divorce can be so traumatic that not even tying the knot again is enough to reverse the physical and mental toll.
Of course if one is in a 'toxic' relationship where there is physical and/or mental abuse then the health benefits of divorce may outweigh the risks of staying in the relationship.
I see couples everyday who are in "bad" marriages and as a psychologist and family therapist who is pro marriage, I coach them in finding ways to make it better. Many times a couple will commit to working on themselves and the relationship for the 'sake of the kids' and that motivation can see them through tough days. Now we have a new motivation, 'stick together for the sake of health."
Monday, July 27, 2009
What we often think will work between couples to 'reach' true intimacy does not work. Consider the couple who bases their relationship upon the following: “I'll tell you about myself, but only if you then tell me about yourself and if you don't, I won't either. But I really want to, so you have to. Now I will go first and then you will be obligated to open up to me. It is only fair. If I go first, you have to make me feel secure. I need to be able to trust you!”
I often refer to this type of 'negotiation' as the “Miss Piggy Syndrome.” There is little doubt as to what is happening here. Couples with trust issues, communication issues, and many other struggles are locked into this type of intimacy.
Maturity and honesty bring to the surface another and deeper experience of intimacy...one the human heart craves and it takes the rawest kind of courage and the more rigorously honest heart. Listen to this heart as it takes a stand and cries out, “I don't expect you to agree with me because I know you weren't put on the face of the earth to validate and make me feel good about me. But I want you to love me and I know you can't really do that f you don't know me. I don't want your rejection but I must face that possibility if I'm ever to feel accepted or secure with you. It's time to show myself to you and confront my separateness and mortality. And one day when we are no longer together on this earth, I want to look back and know you knew me.”
Ah, yes, true intimacy...does he know you? Does she know you? Take courage, step up, let yourself be known!
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The number one complaint I hear in the therapy room is, "we have communication issues!" It often sounds like, "He just doesn't talk!" or "she just doesn't understand me" or "we fight about everything!" Whatever 'communication issues' look like they are real and they are real for a purpose.
The only way two people can have a relationship is through communication and the only way two people can have a deep abiding relationship is to have a deep level of communication. A relationship will only be as good as its communication. When you and I can honestly tell each other who we are, what we think, judge, feel, value, love, honor, hate, fear, desire, wish for, believe in, hope for, have passion for and are committed to, then and only then can either of us grow. Without a relationship I am nothing and I can never know who I am without a relationship…it is the only way I can ever find God and His grace in this life.
I must have freedom and cultivate the ability to tell you my thoughts, to tell you my judgments, to tell you my fears, to tell you my vulnerabilities. Many years ago, she said to me, "I don't know anything about you that everyone else does not already know!" I thought, "What on earth do you mean?" I did not have a clue as to what she meant…but I ask for more information and she offered, "Well, what are your vulnerabilities?" "Vulnerabilities? What are you talking about?"
Of course, I was wondering, 'do I have any?' I mean, real men are those who don't allow others to see them sweat…and I was so good at not allowing others to see me sweat that I had forgotten that at times I did sweat!! Several days went by and then one night our son, who was two at the time, was "exercising" and I stepped out to show him the 'right' way to exercise. As I squatted down to begin the rhythmic movements he and she both giggled at my awkwardness. A flash of pure fire exploded from within my gut and I whirled to her and said in slow even tones, "That is one! that is one! I hate it when people laugh at me." I immediately sat down and the little fella climbed up between us and stroked my arm. Ah, yes, one of my 'vulnerable' moments that I was made was aware of and furthermore, was able to share!
Only as I expose to you my fears and my shames, to tell you of my failures and my triumphs, can I be really sure what it is that I am and what I can become! Only as I know myself can I let myself be known. I must be able to tell you who I am before I can fully know who I am. Relationships are as healthy as the bloodlines of open and honest communication. Open up you may just discover yourself!
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Turbulence in emotionally committed relationships is the norm rather than the exception. In the face of such "upsetness" most of us struggle with feelings of apathy, rejection, frustration, etc. A major key to navigating such inner turmoil is to reflect and focus on the self rather than on your partner or the relationship.
As an example, whenever I got upset and I focused on my partner and I blamed her for my feelings ("You make me so mad when you do ____________.") and when she would accept the blame for my feelings (that is, when she would feel responsible for them somehow) I thought I had it made! (Curious question here, how many "I"s are in the previous sentence?) Now you realize and know our relationship suffered over my selfishness and we were emotionally stuck. We were in the proverbial gridlock and stalemate of life!
Years ago some wise person told me, "She does not make you mad!" I remember thinking that was about the dumbest thing anyone had ever told me, I mean he did not know her, I did! I mean, he would be mad too if he ___________!
The problem was, I only thought I knew her and of course I did not know myself at all! Hello wake up! What a revelation it was for me to recognize that I was responsible for my behaviors and my thoughts and most importantly my feelings and attitudes! No longer did she have to bear the brunt of my ego centric selfishness. It was quite plain, I had feelings and they were mine! What do you do with these feelings? Do you deny them or 'stuff them' or act like they are not there…no. You must discover yourself by knowing your emotions and attitudes and only then are you worthy to 'know' your partner!
Here is a critical key to long-term emotionally committed relationships succeeding…learn to self-sooth. Self-soothing is developing the ability to tolerate discomfort in the relationship for the good of the relationship, personal growth, and the nurturing your partner. This 'art' is like driving a car. You can read books about 'car driving', you can watch movies about 'car driving' but you can only learn to drive a car by, yep you guessed it, driving a car. In much the same way, self-soothing can only be developed through testing, which means you will have to be in a stressful situation to practice soothing. This being said, you will feel raised and maybe new anxiety while attempting to develop this new approach but over time you will be able to more readily lower your reactivity in stressful situations so that your relationship can mature. Here are a few pointers and suggestions to remember today (while you are calm) so you can recall them when the 'storms' hit.
Don't take your partner's behavior personally (even if they did 'mean it personally' why take it that way?)
If you cannot regulate your emotions, control your behavior (you can always control you actions!)
Stop the negative mental tapes that "awfulize" the situation ("this is awful, it will never end!!")
Soothing may require a temporary break with your partner in order to calm down and think clearly (a little distance, such as sleeping on the couch, or going for walk, clears the mind!)
Remember the purpose of self-soothing is to increase intimacy in your relationship not to help you feel "right" while your partner is "wrong" (nuff said!)
This is a time to "replenish" yourself not to punish your partner (don't make your crap about your partner!)
This is also a time to seek clarity and to challenge yourself by asking "What is it about me that responds to you in this manner?"
Monday, May 18, 2009
Picture a woman turning a corner and clipping the edge of a stopped car and then proceeding on the down the street. Several people were watching the event and were surprised at her driving off. The hit car belongs to a teenager who jumps out and runs after the hit-and-run driver and catches up at a red light. He reaches in and takes her keys and says "we need to call the police." She screams out, "You hit my car, you hit my car!" He realizes just how nutty she is, gives the keys back and begins to drive off. She jumps out in front of him waving wildly to stop him and he swerves to miss her and continues down the street while noticing in the rear view mirror that she is sitting in the middle of the street beating her chest! Two or three months go by and one day the police arraign the teenager for 'hitting the jaw of the woman' when he reached in to take her keys. At the trial the judge opines he has never seen so many witnesses come forward to testify for the defendant and he reprimands the woman and all "the monkey business" she created.
How did this situation get this far? This woman had persistently gone to the court and whined week after week and the person who decided if a charge should levied finally gave in (against her better judgment I may add) and let this farce of a charge go to trial…just to be rid of her. This decision cost the teenager time off work, money on court costs, and emotional exasperation of the fallible system.
Societal regression is an emotional process that societies go through when at least five characteristics are seen at all levels of the society (freely adapted from Edwin Friedman's writings):
- Emotional Reactivity: the vicious cycle of intense reactions of people to events and to each other
- The Herd Mentality: the process through which the energy for togetherness (read, sameness) overcomes the energy for individuality…and everyone moves to adapt to the least mature people.
- The Blame Game: the emotional state in which family members focus on forces that victimized them rather than taking responsibility for their own being and destiny
- Quick-fix mentality: the emotional state that has no or little tolerance for pain and constantly seeks relief than fundamental change
- Lack of Clearly Defined Leadership: Is a failure of leadership seen when the leader is instinctual driven rather than regulating her emotions, adapts to group weakness, fearful to take any convictional stand, and is constantly putting out fires…this type of "leadership" is both a product of and contributes to 1 – 4.
Societal regression is profoundly more than just going backward! This regression is a likened to "devolution" and an increasing in immaturity rather than increased maturity in people who are learning to emotionally self regulate. We can have great 'progress' with technology and even with economics and at the same time 'go backward' emotionally.
Fundamental change can only occur when individuals pay attention to themselves and their reactions to what goes on around them (the emotional processes that govern our lives), so today I am placing behind me the folly of trying to will others to change and will continue to increase my tolerance for discomfort and focus on the moment!
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
This post came from The Mockingbird Blogspot. I have included in its entirety…it is hard to improve upon this (http://mockingbirdnyc.blogspot.com/2009/04/matm-saving-private-ryan.html). I include a brief point at the end…enjoy and learn a bit more about GRACE…that ever elusive and indefinable TRUTH -- it often escapes us personally and conceptually but I still love to know more!!!
James Ryan walks through the American Cemetery in Normandy, an old man. He stops at a headstone, and falls to his knees, tears in his eyes. The headstone reads: John Miller. As Ryan's wife comes to his side, he says through his tears, "Have I been a good man? Tell me I've lived a good life." Moved, his wife assures Ryan that he has. Yet the tears don't abate. James Ryan can't be sure if he's been good enough.
In Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg marshals a wonderful ensemble cast to tell a wonderfully scripted, beautifully shot, movingly acted, and soul-crushingly judgmental story. John Miller is tasked with taking a squad of 8 men to find just one. Private James Ryan is the fourth son of a woman who has lost the other three in World War II. It has been decided that she will not lose a fourth. Miller's squad eventually loses every man in the effort to save Private Ryan.
Miller meets his own end defending a bridge by Ryan's side. With his last breath, he looks at Private Ryan and whispers, "Earn this." With these words, he dies. We flash sixty years into the future, and the octogenarian Ryan has clearly lived his entire life with this great weight on his shoulders. Has he indeed earned the salvation that Miller's squad gave their lives for? Miller himself, earlier in the film, muses, "He better be worth it. He'd better go home and cure a disease, or invent a longer-lasting light bulb." Has he discovered a cure for malaria? Has he invented cold fusion? That awesome upside-down ketchup bottle? As viewers, we aren't given to know. What we do know, however, is that he's worried. Why else does he beseech his wife to comfort him? We see that he has a beautiful family. His wife tells him he has been a good man. Clearly, leading a good life has not freed him from the judgment of Miller's words.
Christians too often hear these words, "Earn this," coming from Jesus' lips as he dies on the cross. We hear sermons to this effect: "Is the life you're living worth the death he died?" We live our lives trying to earn it, to become someone for whom such a sacrifice isn't so radically inappropriate. We turn into old James Ryans, worried that it hasn't been quite enough. The most shocking revelation of the film is that Ryan's wife has no idea who John Miller is! Miller's judgment has been so heavy that Ryan has not been able to share his name or story with his beloved for his whole life!
But Jesus doesn't say, "Earn this" from the cross. He says, "It is finished." Even more radically, he says, "I tell the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." The message of the Gospel is diametrically opposed to John Miller's "Earn this." Miller applies the law to Ryan's future in a way that Ryan can never escape. No matter how profound an altruist Ryan may become, the profundity of Miller's sacrifice will never allow Ryan to feel satisfied, or safe from Miller's judgment-from-beyond-the-grave. One word of law destroys the grace Miller shows in sacrificing his life for Ryan. But it is not so with Christ.
No word of law escapes Christ's lips from the cross. Incredibly, the word of law is applied to Christ ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"). We are freed, and safe. We don't feel compelled to hide what Jesus has done for us, as Ryan hid what Miller did for him, because Jesus expects nothing of us. Our Savior doesn't say, "Earn this." He says, "It is finished…you will be with me in paradise."
MY input is: I remember what Scott Hoezee tells about CS Lewis (in THE RIDDLE OF GRACE)...Scott writes that during a British conference on comparative religions, experts were debating what was unique about the CHRISTIAN faith. Was it the INCARNATION? Was it the RESURRECTION? On and on the discussion rambled when LEWIS walked into the room and asked "What is this rumpus about?" When he heard the debated issue he replied, "Oh, that's easy. It's GRACE!" And after further discussion all of the attendees were in accord with LEWIS, it is GRACE. The Unconditional LOVE OF GOD 'shed abroad in our hearts', the no strings attached GOODNESS of GOD pour out into our world 'free of charge!' That is the unique message of CHRIST! Not KARMA (you know, 'what goes around comes around'), not some BUDDHIST multiple pathway to NIRVANA, not the ISLAMIC CODE OF LAW, not the JEWISH CODE OF BEHAVIORS...NO, NO, NO!! There is NO need to EARN HIS APPROVAL...HE gives it to me! And I am deeply loved by God, completely accepted by God, fully pleasing to God, and possess eternal value because Christ gave His life to me and for me! I stand approved! My picture is on God's fridge door!!
Saturday, March 21, 2009
However, many people suffer from shame...shame is a posture of life...shame says there is something fundamentally missing in my life...shame becomes my identity.
Shame is the core of most people who were reared in strict religious homes, were abused by trusted caregivers, or who have experienced some trauma in their life. Shame is not from God and causes one to be ashamed of who they are as a person and GRACE is the only hope for the shame based person. I know...I know...
For all who suffer shame and know God's Grace...let me say! You have great worth apart from your performance!! You know why? Because Christ gave HIS LIFE for you and thereby imparted ETERNAL VALUE to you...you are deeply loved by GOD, fully pleasing TO GOD, completely accepted by GOD, and totally forgiven by GOD.......now don't let anything in this life cloud your mind and erode this ETERNAL TRUTH!
Be free from your shame...
Monday, March 9, 2009
There are NO prophets today!!
Screwed up eschatology and emotion laden theology drives a fear based message! I mean what is the difference between Edgar Cayce/ Jean Dixon/Nostradamus and David Wilkerson?
Fear freezes the human soul in the past and constrains the human heart from enjoying the fullness of life! The crackpot Wilkerson (http://davidwilkersontoday.blogspot.com/) does not speak for God, never has, still does not and never will! God does not 'speak' that way today (Hebrews 1:1-2)! That is settled once for all!!
Fear is simply False Evidence Appearing Real and messages of fear appear real until they are critically examined for rational evidence and here with Wilkerson's message, none is found! Bereft of any rational basis, I soundly dismiss this 'message of doom and gloom!' An American Specific judgment is myopic and arrogant! I mean, think with me here, we are only 5% (really on 4.2%) of the world's population and yet we are to receive the majority of God's blessings and thereby the majority of God's judgment? You have got to be kidding?? Jesus Christ is my judgment and I am in NO fear of God's judgment (1 John 2:1-3).
It angers me that many people whom I love will tremble when hearing Wilkerson's words. Their faith and childhood psyche harkens back to gloom and doom and impending catastrophe! There is no hope, no grace, no goodness, and no love in that message. The fragile spirit of many will be crushed by such a message…that is not the message of the New Covenant (by the bye, Wilkerson and his ilk, seem to revel in citing Old Covenant passages that are specially written to someone other than today's Christ follower!!)! Begone you hobgoblin of fear! Brennan Manning once said this about the Specter of Fear, "A pox on you and your children!!"
No fear can live here!! Not in my heart! A heart of "love drives out fear!" (1 John 4:18).
I slept well last night and now I finish my morning brew of Brazil roast. Enjoy today, tomorrow, don't allow your tomorrows be limited by your fears!
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
How we process information determines the quality of our intimate relationships. There are three principles that govern this idea: 1. One cannot not behave. 2. One cannot not communicate. 3. The MEANING of a given behavior is not the TRUE meaning of the behavior; HOWEVER it is the TRUE MEANING for the person who has given it a particular meaning.
Principal one says we can never do nothing because even the so called doing nothing is doing something. Try to do nothing, try not to behave and if I am watching you I will say "you are doing something" because of what I am seeing at this moment…now hang on a moment.
Principal two follows naturally and I am communicating all the time. How many times have you said, "We just don't communicate"? All that this means is the communication at the verbal level is not very satisfying…but non verbal communication IS taking place and MEANING is given to the behavior even if the behavior is silence.
Now to the big one, Principal Three, which states that a particular behavior may be given multiple interpretations and that one interpretation is NO more correct (nor incorrect) than any other. Personal reality is subjective and how I create my reality will be formed from my assumptions and my particular frame of reference. However, it is only my perception…and that may or may not match your perception and for each of us that perception is equally 'true' and equally valid.
In addition to these three principals we need to understand that communication occurs in three modes; verbal, non-verbal and the context. The verbal is simply the words I use. The non verbal is my voice inflection, tone, facial expressions etc. The context is when I said what I said, why you think I said what I said, and where I said what I said.
When we mention communication breakdowns we usually are referring to the context and the meaning we give a particular piece of communication.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
Take about 5 minutes and watch Patrick Thibodeau. Patrick, a young man from Maine with Down’s Syndrome, has been a manager for four years at his high school. He plays in practice with the team, but has NEVER played in an actual game. But on his Senior Night, he was allowed to start and as the video showcases, got to make some memories for the rest of his life. Wipe your eyes, call your friends, enjoy GOD'S GRACE and remember you have never had it so good!! Yeah, life is good!!
Monday, January 12, 2009
I am sure you have seen figures like the one below and gotten stuck...really stuck...so stuck that you think the problem is impossible to solve. That there is no answer...but there is!
The Nine Dot Puzzle
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. . .
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Start from any point and draw four continuous lines (without lifting the pen) so that each of the nine dots has at least one line running through it. You must think "outside of the box" to solve this.
Or how about this one: If a bat and a ball together cost $1.10 and the bat costs a dollar more than the ball how much does the ball cost?
Psychology tells us that our minds have two systems for solving problems and making decisions. One is the intuitive mind and the other is the reasoning mind. The intuitive mind acts 'with out thinking'...it just 'knows' but does not always know 'how it knows.' The intuitive mind is like having a blazing fast processor but it is does not 'learn new stuff' very well. On the other hand, the reasoning system uses careful calculations that is not influenced by emotions and is slower in the processing speed than the intuitive mind. Both systems have their place but both systems have their limitations. It is critical to determine which decisions should be made by intuition and those that require careful calculations.
Most couples I see in the therapy are emotionally stuck precisely because they can not see any answer to their situation. They tell me, "I have done all I can do" and "I have changed all I can change" and "He just won't communicate and I have tried all the tricks!" You can hear the frustration in their voice and see the turmoil on their face and feel the exasperation of their state of affairs.
Correct thinking is the beginning of solving our problems. However we almost never approach a problem systematically and exhaustively unless we have been specifically educated to do so (Miller G.A., Gallanter E. and Pibram K.H., 1960). This is especially true in navigating and negotiating our emotionally committed relationships (lovers, husband/wife, parent/child). Listen to the wife who told me last week, 'I just feel awful' and throughout the first 40 minutes of our session I counted about 37 'I feel awful's' and believe me, I was not feeling all that good by then myself. What is the answer? THINKING and thinking clearly and correctly.
Your first answer may be incorrect. The second answer may not be correct either...but that does not mean there is no answer. Think and then think about your thinking. This will slow your reaction down and keep you from doing something really dumb and may even give you a better chance of strengthening your close relationships.
Back to our problem solving brain: if you said the bat cost $1.00 that would make the ball cost 10 cents and the bat would only cost .90 more...therefore your first answer (intuitive brain system) was wrong!! But there is a correct answer. Also, try to solve the NINE DOT PUZZLE with out using GOOGLE!
Use the rush of emotion to trigger your brain to signal to your heart....slow down and THINK.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Well, I have wondered why I often say "We will be along in a minute" and "sure, we will pick it up for you on the way home" when there is only one body, namely mine, in the automobile. Now I know why! Dutch researchers are claiming there is a higher incidence of schizophrenia in non right-handed people! Here is what they say.
Language lateralization is decreased in left- and mixed-handed individuals...which means language can occur in both sides of the brain...not just a boring one side of the brain!! They survey 86 scientific articles and the meta analysis revealed that non-right-handers had significantly higher schizotypy scores than right-handers and this significance remained after removing an outlier of more than two standard deviations.
The research team writes in the journal Schizophrenia Research: “In conclusion, non-right-handed subjects had higher schizotypy levels than right-handed subjects, while there was no difference between strong right- and strong left-handed subjects."
Wow, now I am left handed and we will continue to write...there I go again with the 'we' thing. By the way, one of my favorite patients, from time to time, wears a sweat shirt that states, "If All The Voices In My Head Paid Rent I Would Be Rich."
Smile today...and right handers, be aware of the lefthanders!!
Monday, January 5, 2009
My main therapeutic task in the counseling room is to help the client see 'their problem' from a different perspective. Systems theory states that the way you see a problem will determine the answer you find for 'your problem.' As long as you continue to see the problem the way you see it, then your answer will always be the same! This explains why people repeat the same thing over and over getting the same results and complain…they want different results. If my financial problem can only be understood as a lack of money then I am stuck. Did you even have an Uncle Rudy tell you, "It is not the money you make that gets you into financial trouble, it is the money you spend"? Wow, what a different perspective! When I first heard that I thought, "You are nuts, yeah, but you don't make what I make…", but he was correct and I wasn't.
With all the ups and downs of the economy (our local gas prices jumped 17 cents over night two days ago), the 'erosion' of our 401-Ks, the fear of 'what will happen tomorrow,' it is good to take a slightly different perspective. W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm remind us that the 19th century millionaire couldn't get a cold COKE from the fridge or jump into her car and run three hours down I 65 to Gulf Shores. She could not GOOGLE anything, nor get instant news delivered to her 'desktop' 24/7. She could not jet to New York City or to Belfast, Ireland. She could not run over to the mall and buy a point-and-shoot camera, Blue Ray DVDs, or a Botox injection. She could not escape our torrid heat in the summer with AC nor have a 'boob job' done by a plastic surgeon. She could not have by-pass surgery to prolong her life or even take the 'wonder drug' (aspirin) to quell her raging headache!!
The poorest of us today are far wealthier than any of the wealthy in the 19th Century. A worker in 1900 worked for two hours and forty minutes to buy a three pound chicken…99 years later? He would only work 24 minutes! Four years prior to my birth the average worker put in more than two hours to 'purchase' 100 kilowatts of electricity; forty-nine years later the worker put in fourteen minutes.
"Godliness with contentment is great gain…" and I struggle in this world keeping the 'right' perspective. Remember, it is how you view your problem that will determine your answer…if you don't like your 'answer' then you may want to adjust your viewpoint. Looking at and doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results…now that is insanity!