Friday, December 19, 2014
And just as important, "Am I willing to give you what you want?"
Each individual in a couple chooses to give their partner what they want and need.
Or, they choose not to do so.
In times of conflict it can be easy to believe that we need to control the amount of satisfaction we give our partner. It can be one way we feel in control of the situation.
Under stress we may see this question of how much to give, and get entangled with all the specifics of a given situation.
But it still comes down to the fundamental question,"will you give me what I want? Will you TRY?"
This is one form of commitment needed to survive as a couple.
Half measures may be tempting if we are trying to maintain some control of our level of commitment. And this is a mistake if we want the relationship to last beyond the crisis.
You may ask yourself, "Am I willing to be 100% committed to Trying to give my partner what they want, or not?"
If the answer is "yes", you then have a starting point for negotiating what that need is, and how to meet it.
Frustration and resentment can claw at you during this time. Stay focused on the process to reach solutions.
Be patient and be gentle with one another in stressful times. Enduring your own vulnerability is often the biggest challenge to success.
Remind yourself that you are a team and not competitors. And you will get thru this.
And ask for the help you need in getting an unbiased third perspective on your partnership.
Email me for more input on your specifc situation.
Live well! Together.
Friday, December 5, 2014
I wanted a resource that answered many of the questions I receive most often about how to be happy. This book should do that and I've learned a lot in writing it too.
It will have not only the elements of happiness to use in your life but also what to avoid to keep happiness alive and how to create a Happiness Plan to keep you focused.
Its not finished but all is moving forward quickly. I will keep you updated on my progress along the way. Thanks for your patience and thanks for reading!
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
She had just described a life that most of us would consider tragic. Harsh events and her heroic efforts to meet them, had left her feeling crushed under the weight of daily disappointment.
I was reminded of the insidious mechanism of depression that results in a sort of ratcheting down of our hope. It’s the feeling that every step down is one more that we cannot go back up.
Some describe it like the sound of a door locking, preventing them from ever going back. You hear the click of the lock that keeps you from even hoping you can feel better.
The good news is that feeling broken is a temporary condition and yet at the depths of depression, we can believe that only permanent misery lies ahead for us. This certainty of future unhappiness is a part of the illness, and should not be believed. Yet we will.
I told her that she needed to do some specific steps in order to begin the process of feeling better. She smiled weakly, and said, “You've got to be kidding me. That can't possibly help. You want me to do this and that.”
I told her of an image that flashed into my mind when talking to people who are so deeply depressed. It is an ancient well in India made of thousands of stones carved into steps that lead down from the surface.
I told her that what I was describing were individual steps for her to begin the climb back up and she need not worry about how they fit together. What was important was that she begin taking one step at a time to climb back out of her depression.
Looking at each individual step might seem worthless. You have to see them all together for them to be understood.
Since you can't see the complete picture when depressed, you need to trust someone who can. Its also helpful to have someone to be present with you through difficult times. Someone to offer encouragement and guidance and remind you that you're not alone. And that you can move forward again.
That takes a level of trust that can be very difficult for anyone, and yet it's a necessity to be able to accept help
“Will you do these three things?” I asked. she smiled with only one corner of her mouth and said, “Yeah, I'll do them” and we scheduled our appointment for the following week.
Monday, October 13, 2014
Humans are social animals and we need interaction with others to feel good. Consider the opposite extreme of social isolation in prisons with their well-known negative effects on mental health. People can gradually lose contact with reality in some of these cases. We need contact with people to stay healthy.
Social isolation is a well-known contributor to depression. Being alone can lead to spending too much time ruminating on our negative thoughts, thereby making ourselves depressed. Spending our time with others takes us away from such thoughts and allows us to be immersed in someone else providing a much needed break from ourselves and our thoughts.
To be Continued...
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Very often I'll have clients tell me they want to achieve something new, which is more a part of satisfying their role, than it is satisfying their "selves".
There's nothing wrong with getting another degree, having another child, or making more money, as an indicator of your achievement and expanding your horizons. But don't expect it to necessarily make you happy for long.
A role is only something you do to fulfill a need.
You can think of happiness as a byproduct of living your own life well, according to your authentic self, not your role.
We get so busy in doing all that needs to be done in daily life, that we can come to believe that we are what we do.
It might sound strange, but over time, we can believe we are our roles rather than our selves.
Think about the roles you play in your life, spouse, partner, parent, employee, and so on.
Others may define you by what you do, but you will be happier living beyond just your role.
So who are you when you dig through these roles and reach the foundation of who you are?
How do you ever find this authentic self?
Be conscious. Live in the present moment at all times, make conscious decisions about what's important to you, rather than just living your life to fulfill your roles. Learn to recognize the difference and get back on track when you need to do so.
I've seen people fulfill their roles exceptionally well, and yet not feel satisfied with their lives. They got that degree, married that "perfect" partner, made that amount of money, and yet it didn't touch them deeply enough for them to feel happy for long.
And this can be unsettling. You did what you thought would make you happy and yet it didn't last.
What else do you do?
Always connect and engage with life and make conscious decisions that come directly from your core self.
Consider meditation, even briefly, like 10 minutes a day to start, and focus on the present moment, and doing one thing at a time to make it easier to reach a better understanding of yourself.
Continue growing familiarity with your core by recognizing what satisfies you deeply versus what satisfies you temporarily.
Email me if you have questions.
Practice. You can do this. Live well in the here and now
Friday, September 5, 2014
Some predictable things happen when humans feel intense stress. Our heart rate quickens, our palms might sweat, we might be focused on a single thing mentally, and our vision can draw down to tunnel vision. All these physiological responses are intended to help us fight or flee from a threat.
If we reach this point in our body's responses to stress then we are virtually incapable of thinking through all the aspects that we should be considering and that means we are operating in a very inefficient mode for resolving conflicts.
In fact, in this stressed mode we are using more of our primitive brain areas and not our higher level reasoning center.
Using this fight or flight mode means we are more likely to be thinking, "how do I win at this?" And if one of us is trying to win an argument, that usually means the other has to lose. This is not how healthy relationships work. But you can get back on track.
Our preferred win-win scenario is one developed by the clear-thinking mind using reason, not that reactive one we have under stress. Knowing the difference takes a process of mental training of ourselves and our partner if we haven't used it already.
How we deal with stress, or in dealing with the threat we perceive, is an important part of successfully navigating an issue with our partner. And that means to resolve issues without damaging one another.
This is why we must calm ourselves, relax, and get into a more normal rhythm physiologically and emotionally, because that is how we get back to being able to reason and choose what we do next.
This relaxation process allows us to move from the more primitive parts of our brain that are activated by stress into the thinking and reasoning centers so that we can actually develop a plan of action to deal with the threat or the discussion.
In relationships, it's not uncommon to see two people who cause one another so much stress by simply trying to communicate their needs to get what they want, that it results in a high-level of reactivity and a decreased amount of actual reasoning behind resolving conflicts.
In this unhealthy scenario, the loudest or angriest partner often wins while the other gives up and both feel the exchange was damaging rather than helpful.
If we each recognize that this is how any human reacts to stress, then we can be able to feel that our partner is simply trying to figure out what to do to the best of their ability, rather than taking it as an assault.
So what is there to do about this?
First simply recognizing how human beings react to stress is the foundation for anything else we do. Recognize that all human beings react to stress this way, IF we do not stop it, and therefore they are not fully capable of being problem solvers or deep thinkers at this point. We cannot see reason when we're in the depths of an emotional reaction.
Next is to try to relax and calm ourselves. One of the easiest ways to do this is to take a time-out from the discussion or argument or activity that has upset us.
You can initiate this time-out process by having a discussion with your partner, ideally BEFORE you're upset, to tell them that you'd like to use time-outs as a way of calming and relaxing both of you.
Hopefully, they will see the benefit of doing this as it allows each of you to get back to thinking and coordinating things together, rather than having a disagreement evolve into an argument where damage can be done by one or both trying to "win".
You might say something like , "Honey, I feel that I am becoming too upset to be productive in this discussion and I'd like to take a timeout for 15 minutes" or 30 minutes or an hour. Take whatever period of time you think it might take to relax.
You might next say, "can we meet at that time and finish this discussion when we are both calmer and able to reason through it?" If you have discussed this beforehand, it will be much more likely to be acceptable to your partner.
We can each be triggered very quickly by the other and it can be difficult to know when we need to take a timeout. It is always difficult to see the forest for the trees when we feel upset.
Trusting in each other and giving one another the benefit of the doubt, that we are each trying to work this plan, makes our efforts feel coordinated and mutually beneficial.
Using timeouts to counteract the stress response we all cope with is a key element to resolving conflicts, and avoiding lengthy problems that feel unsolvable.
Perhaps you are one of the rare couples that has the confidence of knowing that even in a conflict, you will resolve it quickly and calmly, without damage to one another or your relationship, and that life will go on with another issue resolved successfully together.
You can see how that sort of confidence as a couple is a very strong bonding element for the future success of your relationship. That's what we'd all like to get to and you can.
Have this conversation with your partner and use time-outs when you need to get a calmer perspective.
Share this with others if you think it would help them. And email me if you have questions.
Good luck and Live well now, together.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Anxiety has evolved to prepare us for a fight or flight response to the occasional physical danger that might have appeared in our primordial past.
Our current problem involves this ancient system that is now used to deal with a "new" environment. The continuous stress of modern life can help to keep us on our toes looking for threats, until we are preoccupied and exhausted.
Anxiety, if we don't stop it, can result in our feeling like we have overlapping, critical concerns that must be dealt with immediately or else something terrible will happen.
The process of slowing down and separating these concerns allows us to see them as individual elements we can do something about.
One of the best exercises to combat anxiety is to simply return our minds to the present moment.
Keep in mind that this moment is the only one we ever have. The moment before this one has already passed. The moment after this one has yet to happen. We physically live in the present moment, even if our minds are not always connected to it.
Especially if we are anxious, our minds might be reviewing the past. Or looking out for danger in the future by worrying about it. We can exhaust ourselves with our never-ending scanning for threats, both from the past and the future.
This is often when we can begin to feel nervous, shaky, worried, fearful, as we get stuck in a loop of trying to see everything and never feeling satisfied with what we find.
If we recognize that anxiety is our attempt to prepare for something that might happen in the near-future, then we can see if in a new light.
So we have to ask ourselves, is this approach to coping with our feelings and concerns working for us?
If it's not, then don't we want a better approach?
That better approach is to return our minds to the present. Stop our mental efforts to review the past or prepare for the future.
Remind yourself, "I am safe in the here and now. No lion is trying to chase me. I am not in immediate danger. I am fully aware and present in this moment".
There is much more to be incorporated, like maintaining boundaries, avoiding drama, developing a sense of control of your life circumstances (to the degree possible), relaxation and recreation, as well as prioritizing your life in your chosen direction.
We do want to learn lessons from the past, but then we need to stop the review process and use what we know about how to cope better. Slowing the process, and seeing the individual elements of it, is a good start to managing our anxiety.
Stopping yourself from this habitual mental process is an ongoing effort. And as always, the more we do it, the better it works for us.
Live well at your own pace and in your own way. And return to the present moment to touch base with what is real and most important.
And email me if you need help.
You can do this!
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Click here or use the link below.
Use such info to integrate new ways of doing things into your life IF it helps you live well. Enjoy!
Sunday, August 17, 2014
We've heard that Robin was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease recently. We should remember that a trauma such as being given a life-altering diagnosis, can be a major punch to the psyche. And these might include physical ailments you might not have expected like heart surgery and Diabetes. Any diagnosis that changes how we live our lives can be felt as traumatic.
Some insurance companies are now offering supportive services to help people make the transition to a new reality as smoothly as possible. I am just starting to do some of this work as a provider with a company that works with insurance companies and I'll let you know what I learn over time.
I've seen other headlines about Robin Williams' situation just prior to his death, that we might learn from in understanding the effects of depression on our lives.
He was said to have been distant with his family and friends and to have been upset by other issues that he could not resolve and that he had quit alcohol and drug rehab too. I have no idea if these are true as reported. But I know I have seen many depressed clients of mine deal with life issues like these.
Depression is our total focus on the negative aspects of our lives. As good as some parts might be, we will tend to focus on what is not the way we want it to be. And feel angry and frustrated by that fact. If we feel bad enough, we can even begin to imagine that nothing can be good in our lives again.
This counter intuitive process is so seductive to a depressed person, that we might not even realize it is happening until we are deep into our illness. The key to stopping this process, as early as possible, is to see it as it happens.
I think of this process as being one of disengagement from life. We might be angry or irritable or simply negative in talking to others until we make a decision that others don't like us or we might as well not bother family and friends with our presence when we feel so bad. Our mind might even convince us that we are doing them a favor by avoiding them.
If we know we are likely to become depressed, we need to become good at recognizing our disengagement patterns. Usually, we start with irritability and taking life very seriously. We lose our sense of humor and we become tired and feel we need to rest at length. Instead of needing a nap, we might feel that we could sleep for a week.
Even if we do rest we can feel it was far too little. So we try to rest some more and our motivation to do much of anything can diminish.
We can find ourselves focused on solving the insolvable problems of life and feeling deeply frustrated and sad about them. Small issues become large when you look at them too closely and for too long.
We might stop doing all those things we know contribute to living well, like being grateful for what we have and trying to stay physically healthy. Everything can become a chore and eventually these chores become another backlog of unaddressed issues we can blame ourselves for not fixing.
If we do not try to counter this process, and sometimes even if we do, we will find ourselves feeling desperately unhappy and alone with our thoughts of sadness and hopelessness.
It is very common for depressed folks to feel that they have failed at living. And then to feel ashamed of that feeling. In that state of mind, It doesn't take long for anyone to then ask themselves, "what is there left to live for?"
All of this is recognizable as the process of disengaging from daily life and going deeper into a depressive episode. And in a case of deep depression, we might even feel that we are somehow "locked into" the illness as if some kind of emotional Legos have snapped permanently into place.
So for anyone reading this who might see themselves, or a friend in this description, the actions to take are clear if not necessarily easy. But doing them sooner might well prevent a worse episode.
Recognize the pattern you are living as you have noted before when feeling depressed. And if you have not made your list previously, here is what to do.
-- Make a list of increasing severity of symptoms so you can recognize them next time. You might write at the top, When I start feeling depressed I do this...I feel generally irritable or I am easily angered or frustrated for example. Refer to this list if you suspect you might be slipping into feeling depressed. A second list should be the actions you know you need to take to feel good. Start doing them immediately. Preferably with a friend or group.
-- Share your feelings with someone you trust. Hopefully you have one that will accept you as you are in any given moment. And if not, you can make it a challenge for another time to find one.
-- Re-engage with life by maintaining those things you know you like and enjoy and are good for your physical health. Social activities and all those things you used to love to do. And you can always find new things to love too.
-- Get active! This might be the last thing you want to do, but do it anyway. Walk the dog, swim some laps, take up disc golf (which is awesome). Get blood flowing like your doctor told you at your last exam.
-- See your physician and therapist to tell them what is happening and they will help you get back on track. By the way, I am all for medication if it allows you to feel better enough to do the work you need to do to dig out of a depressive episode. How else might you do it when you feel terrible? Too many people have an old mental picture of anti-depressants being addictive or coming with severe side effects, that might no longer apply with the newer medications and treatments available.
-- Do something nice for someone else. Visit someone you think needs a visit. Pay the toll booth fee for the car behind you. Someone recently did this for me and I did it for the next car, and it was genuinely fun to do out of all proportion.
-- DON'T make big decisions if you can help it. There will be a better time for that later.
This is all easier said than done, but you can do it. One step at a time and one day at a time. And this is not a description of a total program of course, but it is a good start.
It might take help and so what?
Do you really have a bigger priority than living well?
Do what you need to do without shame.
Do what it takes to live well again. It is always about being ACTIVELY ENGAGED with life.
Let someone know how you are feeling and ask for their help. And email me if you have questions.
You are not alone. There is hope and you can feel better.
Monday, August 4, 2014
Too often we don't say what's on our minds because we make an assumption that our partner already knows what we're thinking. Or we imagine they would think and feel as we do in the same circumstances. So we can even believe others understand and accept our position, without our stating it openly. It doesn't make logical sense, but it happens.
The truth is when we make assumptions, we are guessing about whether or not our message was received properly. And this is if we recognize that we didn't really express it adequately at all.
This is not uncommon among those couples that start off being able to answer one another's sentences and later realize they really haven't been connecting. Often, a fast and steady pace of life makes it easy to overlook such misconnections.
So be clear and direct with your views and calmly work to understand and accept the views of your partner even if they are much different from your own.
And if you are uncertain about the details, ask for more, calmly and tactfully.
Good communication is not just a cliche in good relationships. It is a foundational element in our understanding and being understood, in our intimate relationships. And that sense of certainty can bond us to one another like little else can.
Live well now with clarity.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
And it was pointed out that what we do is only half of the equation. The other half is our partner's contribution.
What do we do if they are not participating in the development of healthy processes and a loving understanding with us?
It's a huge question.
It's disturbing to recognize that while we make our best efforts at improving our lives, the people closest to us may not have that same interest.
In a worst-case scenario they might actually be working against our happiness. But often, they are simply indifferent.
Its true that your partner has a choice to work with you in maintaining or improving your relationship.
And if they choose not to do so, your options are limited in responding to them.
How we care for ourselves is more obvious and it is often the only thing in our control.
Continue to make your efforts to better your life individually and share what you have learned, and share your enthusiasm too.
Talk to your friends and family who might understand. Consider joining a community that is also looking for healing and better ways to live.
If you choose to continue your partnership, make your personal healing your priority while helping others with their's and in that way your efforts can never truly be wasted.
Do your best to live well now
Email me if you need help
I've occasionally been asked to write longer posts and I have tried to do that.
But I have found myself delaying posting something to the blog if I felt it was not long enough or sufficiently interesting enough to make it worthy of posting.
This has resulted in my becoming more picky about what and how I write. And the editing process has become more tedious and lengthy.
I can now see my attempt to develop a better blog has been a limitation that I have placed on how frequently I can post. My own belief about what is a good-enough post has meant that I have posted less than I have wanted.
So I've decided that I will post articles of any length, even very brief ones, and include more information about resources to keep a more frequent schedule of posting to Your Insightful Life.
I am making an effort to counteract the limitations of my perfectionism, by being more accepting of how I write and what information I post.
It might be a little more raw or less-well formed, and I will try to be okay with that. I hope you can join me in looking at this effort as a whole, rather than as a hoped-for masterpiece post after post.
I'm always interested in your feedback so please let me know what you think and thank you for reading.
And I hope you choose to live well now, without limits
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
We might have been raised in a family that gave us misinformation about the nature of relationships, the expectations we have for ourselves and others, how to resolve conflicts with loving others, and what our role is expected to be, and even what kind of life we might want.
What kind of families provided misinformation?
The ones with an underlying issue that was unresolved and acted out in the interactions of the family. These issues were based on their own painful past and used with you. It was all they knew to do.
For example, if you were raised in a home with an alcoholic or abusive parent, you might have learned to be vigilant to see what mood they were in when they came home from work. You might have developed the ability to start gathering information about this even as they drove up to the house. How hard did they stop and close the car door and open the house door? How hard are they walking thru the house? And on and on.
Your observational skills were refined by the need to assess people and to get in sync with them or even avoid them, to avoid further trouble. Laying low, staying quiet, and not doing anything wrong was a common approach to dealing with the anxiety of this type of home life.
But this is not the only approach of course. It is truly amazing the variety of possible responses to such a situation.
And these chaotic environments could be caused by any number of issues, not just alcoholism. Parental anger and disapproval are common issues too. But, excesses of any kind and the covering lies or other control measures used by our parents when we were children, can make our current life more difficult than it needs to be.
If this was your childhood environment you have to ask yourself, “do my reactions negatively affect me now?”
The answer is often, “yes”.
If you are still using this old approach with others who have shown no reason for needing it, you might be limiting the possible growth of your relationships. Limiting your possibilities for happiness.
It served you well in the distant past, but its not how you want to live now.
What to do next?
Recognize that you are open to seeing what happened and how it affected you.
Recognize that you are free to make conscious choices that are healthier for yourself.
Notice when you are simply reacting rather than making a choice about how to respond.
Make a new and more adaptive choice that fits with your values.
See what happens.
If it is a better outcome than you might have expected from your automatic reactions, consider doing the same process next time.
It is easier said than done. It takes repeated practice. It takes patience.
If you were raised in a chaotic environment, and you believe it might be limiting you now, try to make conscious choices. This is responding rather than reacting automatically.
Let me know if you need help.
You can do this. Live well now.
Saturday, June 28, 2014
Pablo Picasso made hundreds of works of art and yet most of us might only remember the names of 4 or 5.
An artist works on expressing emotion in each work of art. The emotion is important enough to them, that they sit down and spend the time to express it.
Not every work of art, even from a famous artist, is a masterpiece. Or even something we individuals can necessarily enjoy, understand, or personally value.
And yet it was of importance to the artist.
They took the time and made the effort, to make something out of nothing but their own thoughts, feelings, and materials.
This same vital, personal growth process is often left behind by many of us in daily life.
And yet it's one that we need to adopt and use every day.
Why bother doing this?
This process enriches us and all those we touch. And I would argue, it enriches humanity at large.
Because this same process the artist uses to deal with their own internal concerns, connections, issues, problems, is the same one we need to express ourselves too.
For each of us as individuals, this is an effort to make our internal world into something that can be understood, or at least accepted in a different way, and then set aside to move on to the next challenge.
If we do this with our emotional concerns then we too are as free as the professional artist to move on to the next issue or challenge.
You did it as a kid. Maybe you forgot about it. Maybe you gave it up along the way.
At the very least, we are slowly chipping away at a bigger issue even if we can't necessarily overcome a chronic challenge. We can make it less influential in our lives.
How do we do this? Here is some good news.
We are already doing it!
We do this with every statement we make. We do it with every interaction we have with others. we do it with every word we craft on a page and with every relationship we maintain.
We can choose to make these efforts at bettering ourselves, and those around us, and the opportunities are constantly available.
You have a virtually never ending supply of opportunities.
The biggest effort might be for us to recognize them. And then act on your artistic impulse to express your self, via your needs, your concerns, your beliefs. Your own art.
You are the artist and your art is your life. Knowing that truth and treating daily life from that position, will help you grow yourself and your individual life to the maximum possible.
The time to start is now.
If you are reading this, you are already on your way forward. And I am happy for you!
Let me know what you think.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
But it was clear that they were having tense moments with one another.
They occasionally glared at each other with stern expressions. Then, they would look around the room as if searching for something or someone else.
We knew they had been locked in a period of friction recently. But, apparently they were on their best behavior with us.
After dinner, as we walked toward our cars, we overheard them behind us as they continued to bicker. Suddenly they turned to face each other as the husband said, "Hell, I've been lonely!" And the wife replied loudly, "I've been lonely too!"
Our friends were lonely and angry at the same time. Separated by emotional distance even as they stood face-to-face. And they did not resolve their differences. They were soon divorced.
It's bewildering to watch such a slow motion tragedy occur. You can hear them say what they want. You might have a good idea about what they need to do to fix it.
But somehow they don't reach the point where they can calmly connect and agree about what to do.
So they get more angry and frustrated and the damage to one another continues until one or both look for the relief of admitting defeat.
Every relationship needs someone who sees what is happening, stops themselves from participating in the chaos, and says, "let's talk about how to make this better."
Don't wait for your partner to do this. Do it yourself. Be the hero for your relationship.
When you change the dynamic from one of, "I'm right and you're wrong" to "what can I do to give you what you need" you've made the conflict fixable.
You've also decreased the anger, increased structure for the process, and instilled hope that you can make it better. All by choosing to stop the cycle.
Take some deep breathes. Step back two paces. See the big picture. Talk to a friend who relaxes you. Make better choices that focus on solutions rather than problems.
You can do this. And if you need more help, email me. Live well now.
Friday, June 6, 2014
- T.E. Lawrence
Passivity is doing nothing. It a decision that puts you at the mercy of random circumstances and unscrupulous others.
It is often in the form of waiting for something we can't identify. Hoping that somehow things will get better.
Maybe we don't know what to do next. Maybe we know but don't want to do it. So we wait. It might seem like all we can do.
You still have a choice.
Never wait for things to "get better" or people to give you what you want. Waiting for a vague and uncertain outcome is one of the most potentially damaging things you can do to yourself.
Passivity is about waiting and drifting rather than making choices and going in your chosen direction.
Waiting will drain your motivation and hope and can eventually lead to hopelessness and depression.
The opposite, to take action, is to actively make decisions that get you closer to what you want for yourself.
Consider passivity a bad habit of thinking that needs to be broken.
Passivity or Patience?
The bad habit of passivity takes you out of the drivers seat. But the truth is that you have to keep your hands on the wheel if you are driving your life in the direction you want.
When might waiting be okay? When it fits into a plan we have that leads us in the right direction of our hopes. Fitting into our plan makes waiting an act of patience rather than passivity.
Patience is a timed effort to wait for a situation to align with your plan. It's long been said that timing is everything. I've seen that to be true. Not every effort can be made at anytime and be effective.
Like a trapeze artist, we often have to choose when we leap for the handhold that allows us to move forward. That is patience.
What is best to do?
Take action. DO something. Take that next step to get moving. No matter how small that next step might be.
When in doubt, do something for your physical and emotional health. Keep it simple and easy like taking a walk. Or talking to a friend. Or anything you like that makes you feel you are making healthy choices.
And grow from there.
Be with friends who boost you with encouragement and acceptance. They want to help you.
The new habit to form is choosing to be healthy by taking action. Become the active decision-maker in your own life.
You are no longer waiting. You are making decisions, and responding to what comes next after every action. This is a self-directed and well-lived life.
Part of the challenge is to be okay with this process. Simply being patient and carrying out the effort is a form of activity.
Take your feelings of frustration or anger or sadness and use them as fuel for your next effort. That effort should move you closer to what you want and away from uncertainty.
Don't panic if things don't go precisely according to the plan. As long as they are generally aligned with the plan, that might be well enough.
We have to get back to the efforts that make us feel in control to the extent possible. That always means we have to take action.
DO make a simple plan and carry it out. You'll feel better for taking action. Email me if you have a problem setting it up.
Live well. Today.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
One of the first questions we ask when confronted with a major life issue is, "why did this happen?"
Lots of people, including me, think they have to understand a problem to fix the problem. And the previous post on our emotional wounds mentions understanding as a way to make better choices.
In the long-term, I still prefer to understand in order to help motivate ourselves and stay on track with our efforts. But we might have to remind ourselves to focus on our most critical needs first.
The truth is, in the immediate-term, you don't have to understand everything in order to start getting your life in order. All you need to know is what to do next. Thats it! We can all do that.
What you do next is the key.
Give yourself some time and space to calm down and think, so you can start making decisions about what comes after.
For example, you wouldn't want to stay in an abusive relationship until you figure out why it happens or how it all came to this, right? All you need to know is that you need to get to safety first and figure out the rest later.
In general, the more critical or time sensitive the issue, the more you need to focus on the next step.
And hopefully, you have had the time to consider options in the past before things became critical, and you have a plan or set of priorities in place.
Start with your personal safety and work your way out in building a plan for the future. All the way to what you most want your life to be.
So keep this in mind if you ever feel your brain spinning to figure it all out. All you have to figure out now, is your next step.
Then, over time, you can make the effort to understand the rest. And take those next steps that arise.
Share this with others, talk to friends and family, use all your resources. If you need help, email me to set a time to discuss it.
Friday, May 23, 2014
Now imagine she is married to a man who likes social activities and the vibrance of being around people. He likes crowded restaurants, and night clubs, and is drawn to exciting places.
Before she learned of the reasons for her anxiety, she would simply refuse to go to these places and participate in these activities with her husband. She would become increasingly adamant in her refusal as he became increasingly angry that he could not have the experiences he longed for.
And this all got much worse. Irritation hardened into anger and emotional distance.
The growing conflict between them was a symptom of her past trauma. And her inability to identify it and cope with it effectively, and not communicating all this to her husband to gain his understanding and acceptance, was another layer of the situation.
This process can be a large task.
Many of us are wounded, in one way or another, from our past traumas.
This fact doesn't mean we are doomed to remain wounded of course. We live and learn, and make efforts to better ourselves and our lives.
But knowing we are wounded, by whatever trauma we have endured, means we should learn our individual feelings and behaviors that can be triggered and how that's likely to occur. Since recognizing that we are wounded, allows us to make choices in dealing with that fact.
Some of these feelings and behaviors might appear as our being sensitive to certain topics, or how we are addressed, or physically touched. The variations can be as numerous as the individuals who experience them. Our reactions are often extreme when someone, like our partner, touches that raw nerve.
These reactions are often indications of a wound we still carry. They are usually consistent, reoccurring, and long-lived in our history. But knowing those wounds and the indications that we are under their influence, can help us cope with them more effectively.
We need to be aware of them when we deal with others, especially our life partners, because it is a potential threat to our combined happiness if we don't. Allowing our reactions to run rampant is often damaging in one way or another. Making excuses or blaming others, makes the experience even worse.
Conscious understanding of ourselves is the key.
If they go unaddressed, our partners can begin to think of these wound sensitivities as destructive and annoying, or worse, if we have not explained them. Eventually, they can learn to accept our version of reality, and be more understanding of our needs.
If we are aware, we can all work to heal from our wounds, and we all try to carry on despite them. Identify the issue, ask why it exists, and ask yourself where it came from. Finally ask what needs to happen to resolve it or make it easier to deal with in your life.
Talk to friends and knowledgable others to gain perspective and support. Read books on the topic. Try some new coping strategies.
And if you need further help, call me.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
I was talking to a woman around Valentines Day and we'd been having a brief conversation about relationships. So I asked her if she had any advice about making a marriage work.
She seemed surprised and grimaced slightly as if annoyed and said she would have to think about it. I thought she wouldn't give it any more thought. But, within minutes she said, "You have to be able to say anything to them" referring to talking to her spouse.
She went on to tell me she had been divorced for 10 years and it had been a surprise to her to have her then-husband of 15 years, tell her he was moving on with his life, without her.
She described a multi-year effort to understand and accept her new reality as a single woman. Psychotherapy and book reading and discussions with friends, all helped her get through it.
When she least expected to meet someone she could love again, she did. She believes a big factor in their successful 12-year marriage has been their ability to say anything to one another without fear. That had not been a part of her previous marriage and she could see how that also kept them from connecting effectively.
You really do have to be able to say anything to them. The alternative can sometimes lead to invisible rifts that can grow and endanger your relationship.
The quality of your connection with your partner is the key to a sustainable marriage. A big part of that connection is the freedom to say what you need to, and address those issues that are difficult to discuss, but necessary.
Take her good advice. And live well now.
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
They provide hope and a welcome distraction from the problems in our lives. This distraction is a problem unto itself of course, damaging the relationships we are committed to fixing.
The more frustrated or desperate we feel, the more vulnerable we are to such relationships. Our vulnerability needs to be in our awareness when we have any lengthy period of desperation or unhappiness.
These relationships take us away from our real priorities and distance us from what we should be focused on. It is well worth being reminded, that no one is your answer.
You are the answer to your problems. You are the only one who can make choices and take action to change things for the better.
We should all see this for the good news it is. It is all within our capabilities to make the lives we want if we have the courage and patience to learn how and then do what needs to be done.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
It is an exercise in mindfulness that can help show you the themes of your life and possibly give you some insight into your next set of priorities too.
Where it Came From
At the beginning of my career as a psychotherapist, I counseled residents in nursing homes. Part of our work together was to encourage them to reminisce about their lives to appreciate and summarize their experiences.
I was talking to an elderly woman from Germany and I commented I would like to go there one day. Her response was, "Don't wait too long". That theme of living in the "now" was reinforced by many residents who felt the need to pass this message on.
I liked the message but didn't know how to apply it to daily life. So I got tied up in my own dramas, and generally focused on all the shiny or threatening distractions of life.
And years passed until I recognized this theme forming again.
If you have spent any time wondering about your life course, this exercise might help, if and when you are able to consider it.
Your mood might well dictate the experience, so be sure you are feeling upbeat and peaceful rather than not, when you do it.
One of the keys to a happy life is simply to appreciate your experiences as a whole picture. It allows us to put the questions or doubts aside, and see only what is there. And yes it might take practice with more than one effort.
It might help to look at a wall in your home, or close your eyes and visualize one, and imagine a large painting there. It might be laid out like the Bayeux Tapestry or it might look more like an info graphic arranged by groupings of emotions or specific people you've known, if you like.
It might look like a portrait of your face with each experience being a dab of color similar to the work of the artist, Chuck Close.
Part of the beauty of this exercise is that you can rearrange all the elements of the picture. So you can see your life from a new angle, uncovering the unique views that have always been there.
What to Avoid
If you have a traumatic past, avoid this altogether, unless you have professional guidance. And the same is true if you feel emotionally weakened in any way. Wait for another time.
The first time you do it, you might leave out any negatives, and just see the best parts from your history. Focusing on the negatives is best done only very briefly and if it happens when you don't want it to, stop immediately and wait for a better mood-time to consider it again.
Some part of the canvas will be blank to represent the future you hope to fill in with experiences of the kind you love most, or the people you've yet to meet or those to see again.
What are these experiences for you? Plan to make them happen.
And get started living well. Now.
C. Rich Panther, LCSW
Thursday, April 17, 2014
I need your help. I'm starting to develop webinar-type mini-courses and I'd like to know what your interests are. I have a long list of topics that I've collected from my client sessions. Many are recurring themes that lots of people struggle with.
These topics are important to all of us who want to live well. Some of these include:
-How to be Happy
-How to have a Relationship
-Affairs: why and what next?
-How to be Fulfilled
-How to cope with common issues in Emotional Health
Please help me prioritize my efforts to give you what you want.
What do you want to know about first? Let me know if you have preferences for these or other topics too, via email, comments, or the voice mail feature.
I appreciate your joining me here. Thanks for reading!
Monday, April 14, 2014
- Barbara Hall
If you've read some of my posts or you've been to Rich Panther.com, you might know that I've worked in the corporate sector for some years. I helped employees fit into their workplace roles more effectively by learning new ways to relate to themselves and others.
We can all get a more objective perspective on our personal lives in the same way by asking ourselves, “does this situation fit me?”.
Occasionally, I would run into someone who did not want to do their job and therefore, they did it poorly. If they had been in another department, perhaps those same people might do this other job very well.
So what was the problem in this situation? it was one of fit. And fit is largely about our own expectations and needs.
By the time I met them, a supervisor had often reached the point of considering this person to be a “bad employee”. In other words, they had the impression that the employee didn't want to work, but wanted to stay in their job to put in their time, and make a paycheck without contributing.
And a small minority truly did not want to work. But the majority of people I saw wanted to do OTHER work. They simply wanted something else.
You can say they did not fit the role of their position or you can say the position did not fit them. Either way, they were unhappy. And people unhappy in their roles do not perform well. Our personal lives work in much the same way.
Having reasonable expectations for ourselves and others is a healthy thing. They provide guidelines to help us gauge how well things are working in our lives.
How do we know if what we want is healthy or just distraction? Because these expectations should be based in our values. That means we should be able to ask ourselves if this or that decision, fits with what we believe is best.
If you find yourself being a reluctant participant in a role that no longer fits you, what are your choices?
First, try to take two steps back from the situation and look at it objectively. Ask someone whose opinion you value, if they can see it objectively and ask them, “what do you see happening here?” Can you make a small change to test your hypothesis? And, if that is helpful, then consider a bigger change.
Second, look for the feeling beneath the feeling. If you find yourself dreading to do something, ask yourself what is the feeling that underlies that dread. Fear of failure or making things worse are common. Make sure that you address underlying concerns and not just the ones on the surface. If the decision fits your values, try to push forward with it.
Make a short list of the top three issues to address and then list three steps for each of them toward getting what you want or improving your situation, and get them done.
Warning signs: If you reach a point where you think it is better to lower your expectations where you believe you will have to settle for less from your most important activities and relationships, Or, if you find yourself drifting toward choices that are on the margins of your values, avoid them.
Acting on distractions can derail you.
This negative process can become increasingly worse when we feel a sense of disillusionment or anger at not getting what we want from our efforts. In the worst case, we can feel that more effort equals getting less of what we want. This is one way to eventually feel bitter, angry, and depressed.
One manageable step at a time will lead us to our goals. Avoid pressuring yourself to move faster or to do more. Clarity is the key, not “working harder” or even doing more. Set a healthy pace for yourself and stick to it and you'll get there and if you want help just ask for it. Choose someone whose judgment and objectivity you trust. And move forward into those choices that fit you best.
Stick with your plan. You can do this!
Saturday, March 29, 2014
Our infant experiences with our parents, influence the way we see the world and our relationships. The attachment style we develop, based on our early interactions, becomes the basis for all of our future expectations.
This podcast is about 16 minutes long. Click the start arrow twice if it doesn't start on the first click. Enjoy!
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
We have all had competing priorities. And what happens when we try to deal with all of them at the same time? Very often, without focus, we get little done.
Set aside enough time to complete the tasks at hand. List them in order of importance. Any you can leave off for a later time is good too.
What to do next?
Instead of throwing yourself headlong into the pile of tasks, recognize that you are wanting to react quickly.
Slow yourself. Deep breaths, exercise/ walk, meditate, and come back to the question a little later.
Recognize what is truly important based on your values versus what is just your preference due to fear or doubt. This is the desire to avoid or escape. It can look much alike. This takes practice and you might never be finished with the effort. The benefit is that you can make a process for yourself that helps you stay on track when the path grows dim or the stress level gets high.
Look at the stack again from this perspective and re-evaluate the priority list. Start at the top and keep going.
Juggling chainsaws is no way to live. If you have a life where you have to decide which fire to put out next, you need to fix it. Maybe that means you re-sequence your priorities. It might also mean you have to let some things go.
The key is simply that you don’t quit. That is the secret to success. You learn and you try again.
Go and live well. Rich
Monday, March 10, 2014
I had a conversation with a friend this past weekend who told me about an acquaintance that had a different approach to having such discussions.
My friend had decided to open up, and try to gain some perspective on a problem only to find his friend was not interested in discussing details, but rather thought it best to identify options to be chosen.
His answer was something like, “you can do this or you can do that, and that's about it”. This frustrated my friend who felt the need to talk about his situation in detail, rather than just to have options presented to him. Was he being understood? Was he being taken seriously?
This does point out that many of us need to talk in order to process our concerns, and by that I mean to see issues, understand them, and identify the options available for action. It is a process of understanding ourselves.
But we have to recognize that not everyone does it that way. Their approach may be very different.
Very often these people are the ones we would normally expect to have our best interest in mind. They might be the people we automatically go to, to seek comfort and acceptance, like our parents, siblings, or other members of the family, or even your best friend. Just because they are “closer” to us doesn't mean they are the best candidates for support.
If you find these conversations frustrating because they focus on telling you what to do, then keep looking for a confidante that is willing to discuss issues with you before arriving at conclusions. The process of telling our story is very important to many of us.
I think of this mismatch as being similar to someone asking you for the punchline to a joke before you've told the it or someone wanting the final scene of a lengthy story. The story you have to tell is as important as the conclusion. Make sure you find someone that you can tell your story to who is going to be respectful of it and who is going to support you after hearing of it.
Don't get me wrong, the conclusions you come to, and the actions you want to take, are hugely important . You have to take action in order to make changes that are going to help you live better.
But some people prefer to skip the details and jump to the end, to see the steps they need to take. They will use this approach with your concerns too, in their attempt to be helpful. You might choose to talk to them only when you need that specific clarity. And choose others when you need emotional support.
I would also tell you to focus on the solutions, after, I have heard your story. Not moving beyond the past is a sure way to limit our happiness in the present. But for many of us, our story is who we are. It must be told to someone who will respect it.
Don't stop trying to find such a person or people, that you can share your personal story with, and don't get terribly discouraged that not everyone fits that need, especially when we really hoped that they would.
I’m looking at starting a forum here that would serve that purpose too. Let me know if you think that would be helpful to you via email or comment.
Thanks for reading. Go out and live well.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
There are numerous possibilities, but one of the most enduring might be related to our individual attachment styles. These are patterns of behavior we all have that tell us how to relate to others. These are our models for all our future relationships that we have to try to change if they don’t work for us as adults.
If we think of our earliest relationships, those with our Mom and Dad and others, we can get some sense of how we first learned the lessons of relating that live with us into adulthood.
Our parents had their own challenges and they could provide only what they knew to provide us. They had their own patterns that were, generally, consistently used with us for better and worse. They have passed down their treatment of us, from the way their own parents treated them. Did they come from a stable loving home with dependable, affectionate parents themselves? Or did they have the self-absorbed and neglectful parents that could not be considered reliable?
Ideally, our parents were able to provide consistent and predictable patterns to our lives that made us feel like we could expect that things would be loving and stable most of the time. Hopefully, this style of parenting allowed you to feel safe and supported especially when you were under some form of stress.
A majority of us (some estimate 60%) knew we could depend on our parents as positive influences to be there to rescue us if needed. But that leaves a large minority that did not have that same certainty. Perhaps our parents were inconsistent in their care of us or even let us down regularly. What happens to kids who become adults when they came from this background?
Imagine the toddler, who smiles as she looks back at Mom or Dad, and then walks away, a little further each time, until she eventually turns and comes back, or the parent races to catch up to her. Often, this exploration by the child ends in a loving embrace and the reassurance of the parent’s finding them with all the smiling and giggling that accompanies this “game”. This is an example of how secure attachments are built. We are learning that our feeling good, or not, is related to what we do and how we are rewarded by our parents is a big part of that process.
Now imagine another toddler, looking back and not seeing the smiling supportive face of a loving parent. Maybe there is the angry face of the anxious parent or maybe the parent isn’t there at all. What would you expect that child to do? They might look around hopefully at first but soon their smile is gone and they quickly show signs of anxiety; the abrupt side-to-side scanning and the slight grimace that grows into the crying of a lost child.
This lack of positive parental feedback often results in chronic anxiety and, over time, it can lead to an insecure or anxious type of attachment, developing. This style of attachment can become our set of adult expectations that can lead us to conclude that people are undependable, and yet we might feel that we need them desperately. There is a long list of possible beliefs that can be a part of this style that can result in our relationships being more difficult and less satisfying.
So why is it not always that easy to make these needs and expectations fit with those of our partner? Maybe you have different attachment styles or simply have different ways of expressing your feelings and needs. Practice saying what you need directly and specifically. You might consider how you can do this gently at first and then, if it is successful or not, try it again.
In all but the most, damaged relationships, it is usually possible to grow with your significant other in ways that make your lives more emotionally healthy and satisfying. How do you do that?
As always, recognize what is happening. What are your own patterns of behavior in your relationships and is conflict or sadness often a part of them? Tell yourself you are now looking for a better way to get your needs met rather than what you might have always done.
Discuss and negotiate what those things are that will make you feel the way you want to feel when you are with your partner. Stop thinking you can fix it once and forget about it. These efforts are often ongoing and doing them, and receiving what you most want, most of the time, can get you closer to your partner and a more fulfilling relationship. If you need help, ask for it.
I’m reminded of a card someone once gave me. It showed a famous exchange by Winnie the Pooh and his companion, Piglet, while walking hand-in-hand Piglet squeezed Pooh’s hand and Pooh asked, “What is it Piglet?” to which Piglet replied, “Oh nothing, I just wanted to be sure of you.” This is very similar to asking for and receiving the reassurance that someone is there for you, just as we expect from our partners. Just as we expected from our parents. Did it work out that way for you?
Our relationships can be more satisfying and more stable if we make the efforts to get them there. We will go deeper into this in our next post. Thanks for joining me.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
Some of those shared challenges are the most basic; Attitudes. A background of self-reliance and other cultural strengths can serve to keep people stuggling unnecessarily.
Asking for assistance would seem to be especially accepted within the tribal context of hopeful concern but this is not always the case. The optimism and sense of acceptance of life situations, is a true cultural strength.
Ironically, some individuals have interpreted this to mean that they must wait and endure what comes without much ability to influence the course of things for the better. Improving our life situations requires that we do things diferently; to actively pursue our ideal life rather than waiting for things to get better.
The close-knit tribal community can make some feel that their actions are being observed by all and even being judged as inappropriate somehow. Fear of being "looked down upon" or being thought of as "crazy" is an important consideration to many who hesitate to get mental health care.
Privacy is therefore of primary importance among those who have been overly-scrutinized or harshly judged by others.
The anxiety of potential social stigma often
Historical Trauma is a unique aspect in Native American mental health. The historical context of anyone's life has to be factored into their care.
Close Knit community
So what do we do with or about these issues? This is not an exhaustive list. Start from where you are now and recognize the potential of what your life might be.
Practice collaborative thinking. If two heads are better than one, then how might you benefit from a partnership with a friend, a family member, a church pastor or a mental health professional? Resolve to work with others to find the answers you need.
Approach a problem from every angle. If your efforts have not been effective so far, is there another option for dealing with them? All of us can benefit from constructive conversations about dealing with situations that are familiar to us.
Be brave and don't stop until you have the life you want. You can do it.
Saturday, January 18, 2014
Feeling helpless can lead to your feeling hopeless and depressed eventually. People in this situation will often go far too long before seeking any kind of help. Most focus on asking why they feel this way or “what else do I need to do to move past this?” The best course is to get help immediately, and certainly if you feel self-destructive, and regardless after no more than a couple of weeks. Use your friends and family for support and go see a therapist that you like and connect with.
My hope is that someday people will think of going to a therapist in the same way they think of going to the dentist. Go if you think you have the need and before a major problem develops.
If you are not choosing to get professional help and are not suicidal, you now have few options. You might as well try again.
Take a small step in the right direction. Make it one you cannot fail at completing. Make a short list of next steps or better yet make a short list of people who can help you. Even if that help is only to listen. This is often the best help anyone can provide when you feel low.
Complaining, or venting, is fine for a while. Get it out of your system. But don’t stay there indefinitely. Commit to taking action of some kind. Make sure it is small enough to be doable and points you in the right direction for yourself.
You can start with what you used to be interested in. What did you want or like or do that brought you joy? Don’t remember? Start with what resonates with you now even if it is only a small pull. Music? Reading? Online services like Pulse or Flipboard can provide you with a lot of great content to peruse. Walking or other exercise is very helpful. Maybe join an online forum or your local church or social group from someplace like Meetup.com (a great resource).
There are lots of ways to get going again. And that is the key to feeling better. Get up and get out there. Easier said than done sometimes, but you can do it. Dont wait for your thoughts to guide you. Just go in the direction of the resonance. Incorporate your friends and family. And, eventually, the joy will follow.
Live well now