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The Tactics Narcissists and other Crazymakers Employ to Manipulate You

I hope everyone is having a great summer. It has been HOT here in Texas. With heat comes a lot of extra stress and studies have revealed that road rage and other stress factors can increase in the heat. Some of the reactions can be physiological as many get overheated, dehydrated, and their adrenals get overtaxed, leading to heightened emotional reactions. Sometimes, however, people are not nice at all. In fact, they can be downright crazymakers. Following is an excerpt about Crazymakers from my Ten Keys to Staying Empowered in a Power Struggle book. An updated and revised edition will be out soon. In the meantime, you can take advantage of an Amazon special this weekend and get a free e-version of the 1st edition. Click here to order. 

Read on to learn about the different type of crazymakers and the typical tactics they employ to manipulate others. Don't forget to check out my other posts on Psychology Today. Nine types of love, modern childrearing, communicating through conflict, and finding sanity in political chaos are a few of the topics.

CRAZYMAKERS

A mother gave her son two ties for an upcoming family occasion. She then got mad at him when he showed up at the party wearing one of the ties. She wanted him to wear the other one. Years later after the son had grown up and married, he presented his wife with two dresses for their anniversary dinner. He then got upset with her for wearing the wrong dress of the two. A few years later, after they had a daughter, the wife accused the daughter of hugging the wrong parent first—even if the little girl switched whom she hugged each time.

Crazy-makers come in all shapes and sizes and can have good and bad intentions. Some know they are being manipulative and oppressive while others haven’t a clue. Some engage in tactics consistently and others provide intermittent surprise attacks. The challenge is to recognize the behavior, assess if it’s from a healthy or unhealthy place, and then employ the proper strategies to stay sane and empower yourself.

First, let’s look at the definition of crazymaking. Crazymaking is when a person sets you up to lose. Much like the example above—you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You’re in a lose-lose situation, but too many games are being played to help you reason yourself out of it. There is no rhyme or reason or emotional-understanding with a crazy-maker. Worse, when the behavior is stealth and so confusing, it becomes easy to feel crazy. It feels like you’re caught in a whirlwind of chaos with the life force being sucked from you as you are manipulated with nonstop crazy-making tactics.

Key: Consider if You're Dealing with a Crazymaker 

NARCISSISTS

The granddaddy of all crazy-makers is the narcissist. Narcissists cannot empathize with anyone, meaning they cannot relate to another person’s feelings. They can only feel their own wants and needs. They are emotionally stunted, like a perpetual demanding two-year old. It is always about them. However, they can be extremely charming and charismatic, as they have learned how to be the greatest salespeople to get their needs met. These shallow con artists can charm and mimic compassion for brief moments in order to get their needs satisfied. They expect only the best and can be the most materialistic—demanding trophy-relationships, endless objects of success, only well-known acquaintances, top-notch services, lavish vacations, etc. They have disdain for emotions in others and often think even less of people close to them. They try to control everyone around them and will use every available tactic to gain control. Many high-ranking executives are narcissists and consequently tend to create a narcissistic culture in their company or division.

DRAMA-CULTIVATOR

Another famous crazy-maker is the drama-cultivator. Whether histrionic or borderline or a version of other similar diagnosable personalities, the drama-cultivator is best known for their perpetual crises. They are like Chicken-Little screaming “THE SKY IS FALLING,” but they expect YOU to fix it. Now. On their time. On their terms. Some people do experience an excess of rough times (and statistically it’s true that A LOT of crises can happen in one burst), but the drama-cultivator has an overabundance of crises. Plus, EVERYTHING is a crisis for the drama-cultivator. They expend their energy AND YOURS by responding to crises. They cannot empathize with others because they are too wrapped up in their chaos. Yet, they need you and your energy and don’t want you to leave them, so they go to great lengths to get and keep your attention. Like a wounded child, they also swing from loving and supporting you to getting angry and detesting you. Their moods and responses are inconsistent and dealing with them feels like you are walking in a field of hidden landmines.

STEALTH-BOMBER

The final crazy-maker is the stealth-bomber. They are the passive-aggressives that look like roses compared to the narcissist and drama-cultivator, but beware of their sharp thorns. These highly dependent people try to please you, but the nice things they do have a cost. They are the martyr that keeps score. Like a stealth bomber, just when you think everything is okay, they get you. Their modus operandi is to sabotage you while they look innocent. For instance, they will commit to doing something when they really don’t want to do it and then consistently bail out at the last minute. Or they’ll conveniently forget. Perhaps they’ll run late and miss the deadline. Everyone has these experiences now and again, but stealth-bombers do it ALL the time and they get YOU to feel guilty about it. They will make up excuses with the most ambiguous details and then sulk and act like a victim if you get upset. They will conveniently lose items, forget dates, miss deadlines, ruin plans, and then become sad and withdrawn because they’ve tried so hard. Whether it’s a narcissist, drama-cultivator or stealth-bomber, it is critical to ascertain if your power struggle stems from one of these crazy-makers. If so, empathy and rational problem-solving will not work (although paying attention to your own hot buttons is still key because crazy-makers have a keen ability to immediately spot your hot buttons and use them against you). Additional strategies are going to have to be used.

COMMON CRAZY-MAKER TACTICS

It is imperative to know if you’re dealing with a crazy-maker in the first place. However, the tendency is to be a little blind to this possibility if it’s a loved one or someone close. People seem to resist such a notion, so they end up taking the person’s behavior personally. They believe that the crazy-maker in their life could change if they wanted to change. They also expect the crazy-maker to play by the same communication and etiquette “rules” as everyone else, but they can’t. Let me repeat that again—CRAZY-MAKERS DON’T PLAY BY THE SAME RULES AS YOU. They simply don’t experience the world in the same way. It is as if they are dancing to a different song. You’ll save yourself a lot of headaches and energy if you realize this now and stop trying to make the crazy-maker in your life dance to your song.

THE DOUBLE-BIND

The double-bind sets you up to lose. It can be like the example in the beginning where the mother gives two ties to her son and then gets mad at him for selecting to wear the wrong tie of the two. It can also be as subtle as a person giving a scolding look while saying, “I love you.” Another example is the ever-famous situation with two siblings and report cards. One has made all A’s and the other all C’s and D’s. The parent responds with “I know you did you’re best. Not everyone can be as smart and great as Johnny who makes all A’s,” which puts both siblings in a double-bind with each other. Double-binds are negative messages disguised in a positive message or gesture. The insult about choosing the wrong tie is cloaked in the gift of the tie. The son is trapped because if he complains, she can say he doesn’t appreciate the gift. The “I love you” is coupled with an angry look, so one is prevented from addressing the look because the counter-argument might be, “But I said ‘I LOVE YOU’.” Finally, both siblings are in a bind from saying anything to their mother about the grades as the punch in the stomach is hidden with supposed praise. Double-binds happen all of the time. Start paying attention and you’ll be appalled by the frequency. Crazy-makers employ this tactic most often. So, what do you do? The answer lies in boundary strategies at the end of this section.

INCONSISTENT PRAISE

Crazy-makers are superior at giving inconsistent praise. Narcissists, drama-cultivators and stealth-bombers are adept at keeping you on your toes and getting you to beg for their praise. There’s even a scientific explanation for it. Inconsistent praise tends to elicit desired behavior the most. As an example, numerous animal researchers have discovered that the best way to train an animal is with an inconsistent reward. Yes, an inconsistent reward produces the most compliant behavior in animals. That is why gambling can be so addictive because it provides an inconsistent reward. We literally get hooked. Crazy-makers have somehow figured this out and provide the people around them with inconsistent praise. Sometimes they are just so loving, present and/or flattering that it feels good. Then it’s gone. Some people get hooked and continue to put up with crazy-making behavior because they are waiting for the payoffs—the praise. In fact, crazy-maker’s praise probably does feel better than the person who is consistent with it. But, like gambling, it can be an addictive high that also has a queasy, unsettling feeling to it along with a high cost.

SELECTIVE MEMORY

Crazy-makers have selective memories. We all do, but crazy-makers are exceptional with it. They conveniently forget any problems you’ve had with them when they want something from you. Then they throw every wrong you’ve ever done in your face when they are upset with you. Like above, it’s inconsistent. You never know what your review will be like because you’ve learned that it depends on their mood. You know that the only thing you can depend on with a crazy-maker is that you can’t depend on them. They will hold a grudge against you and then expect you to forget any disruptions. They will manipulate like crazy and use their selective memory as ammunition.

IMPOSSIBLE TO EMPATHIZE

Crazy-makers can not empathize. This is how you really know that you’re dealing with a crazy-maker because they will simply not be able to understand your feelings or situation. They might try to and give you a sense that they understand, but they can’t sit with it very long and generally turn the conversation back onto their feelings or situation. This is an important point. Empathy is a developmental trait. A child at 4 years begins to play with others in a more cooperative fashion for the first time. Prior to that, children play with themselves. If they are with other children, they are most likely playing in an individual fashion while sitting next to other children, referred to as serial play. That’s normal because they haven’t developmentally learned to share and take turns. Such skills kick in at around the fourth year. Empathy begins at this time as well. You’ll see evidence of empathy when you watch a child trying to calm down another crying child by giving them a hug. Typically, a crazy-maker personality has not developed empathy, so they are more like a perpetual two-year old at an emotional level. Knowing this is critical to protecting yourself in a power struggle with them. Keeping strong boundaries is key to dealing with a crazy-maker.

Learn what you can do to protect yourself from crazymakers along with other strategies for staying empowered in power struggles in my book. Order this weekend and get a FREE e-version on Amazon.


May is Mental Health Awareness Month

May mental health monthWorld Health Organization defines mental health as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

Deterioration of mental health is caused by as many external factors as internal ones... it takes a community solution where we embrace each other with tolerance, love, dignity, respect and where we help each other - in spite of our differences.

Bullying, discrimination and oppression create self-abuse as much as self-abuse can lead to outward abusive behavior. Err on the side of love....that's where healing, resilience and hope grow.

See if you can use this month to do at least one loving thing for yourself and for someone else and the community where you reside. Then let's see what flowers bloom.


Understanding Despair, Grief & the Pain of Rejection

GriefFather of logotherapy and concentration camp survivor, Viktor Frankl, said, “Despair is suffering without meaning.”  

Forlorn comedic writer and actor, Woody Allen, said, ““To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be happy one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness.”

The Buddhist "four noble truths" state: 1) existence is suffering ( dukhka ); 2) suffering has a cause, namely craving and attachment ( trishna ); 3) there is a cessation of suffering, which is nirvana; and 4)there is a path to the cessation of suffering—nonattachment.

How ever you roll the proverbial dice, pain is an inherent part of life. From the moment we are born, both the baby and its mother are contorted into physical pains that are so intense, the mind is wired to suppress the memory of the pain.

The emotional pain that follows if the baby is abandoned or neglected can impede the baby’s self-soothing mechanisms and lead to a lifetime of more intense grief to losses—perceived or real.

There is also a hefty amount of research that suggests the cumulative amount of losses in one’s life can take a toll. Add aging, diminishing hormones and declining organ resilience and the bounce back to loss can be more challenging.

One thing I want to point out is that the pain from loss and grief is real. Many can imagine what isolation does when a person is subjected to solitary confinement. Or recall dogs that have been left in cages and begin chasing their tales and exhibiting other anxious symptoms. The loss from the death of a loved one or losing a job or the rejection of a cherished family member, friend, or beloved creates a similar dynamic.

To illustrate it with another example, there was an old Japanese experiment that demonstrated the impact of others on rice. Three jars were filled with fresh picked rice. One was placed in a dark closet by itself. The other two were placed next to each other. The words, “I love you” were taped to one jar while the words, “I hate you” were placed on the second jar.

After one month, the rice that held the words, “I love you” was still fresh and smelled sweet as if it had just been picked. The second jar of rice with the “I hate you” note had rotted, turning black and smelling foul. The observation is that loving attention can sustain us in ways that aid our health and longevity. Negative attention can harm us. This is where the lesson from the third jar comes into play.

The third jar that was segregated in a closet by itself had rotted almost immediately, and far sooner than the jar with the “I hate you” sign. Isolation, abandonment, and despair from loss can be real—and the most damning experience.

It can cause a host of ailments, including anxiety, depression, and in extreme cases—death. Death can be as sudden as heartbreak syndrome or suicide, or slower from a deteriorating illness.

Finding ways to process the grief and loss are as important as finding supportive relationships around you. It is also essential that you honor your own personal path to healing and give yourself space to realize there is no one right way or timeline.

Sometimes the people we most care about may be not be there the way we want or need them to be. This can happen because the pain and loss brings up their own losses or fears of losses, so they can’t handle your pain. Finding others with similar losses can help in such situations, along with support groups. Or finding new friends by seeking out passions and hobbies like, painting classes, sculpting, hiking clubs, bird watching, yoga, cycling, martial arts, and the list goes on. Fill in the list with something you’ve never tried!

Also, it is okay to protect your boundaries when people tell you “should” or “must” as in, “You should do…” or “You must do…” because those often signal that its their own internal scripts, or parental introjects, and many times it may not even apply to you.

The big thing is that being pushed to heal tends to backfire, so gently informing others that you’re not going to get over it (like in the death of a loved one) and that you thank them for trying can help teach them. In time, you’ll find and develop ways and relationships to help you get through it.

Acknowledging your pain, processing it, cultivating positive relationships, and finding meaning are the steps for healing and growth. Spirituality is often at the heart of the deeper healing—and studies reveal prayer and meditation helps to heal bodies and minds in innumerable and unexplainable ways.

Cicero wrote in 44 B.C. as he was approaching his own death, “While we are trapped within these earthly frames of ours, we carry out a heavy labor imposed on us by fate. Indeed, the soul Is a heavenly thing come down from the celestial realm, pressed down and plunged into the earth, contrary to its divine and eternal nature. But I believe the immortal gods planted souls in human bodies to have beings who would care for the earth and who would contemplate the divine order and imitate it in the moderation and discipline of their own lives.”

He proceeds to cite a number of great thinkers that believed the same thing. Whether it is belief in fate, the soul, an eternal heavenly place, or just the mystery of not knowing, the belief in a higher purpose tends to provide the deepest healing to the severest of losses.

Genius physicist, Albert Einstein, wrote, “There are only two ways to live your live. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

The death, loss, or rejection may bring pain. The pain is real and deep and through the journey of it, may the ethereal miracle of the shattered pain be like the seed that is destroyed to make room for the emerging plant. May your despair heal through all the necessary steps that lead to your personal and wonderful seedling.


Substitutes for Satisfying Cravings

Cravings can wreak havoc on a diet. Here’s how to work with them rather than against them.

 

Have you ever experienced any of the following scenarios?

 

~It’s late at night and you’re watching a gripping thriller on your TV and desperately want to munch on potato chips.

 

~It’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon and you’ve been having fun playing with your kids at the local park and now you want to get ice cream.

 

~You’ve overslept and are running late to work and need a donut to go with the coffee you’re guzzling.

 

In each of these scenarios, a craving gets triggered and that craving often overrides any resolve you may have had in sticking with your healthy diet. In those moments, your primal brain gets activated and senses danger and does everything in its power to override the higher “executive functioning” part of your brain (the part that can delay gratification) and works to ensure that you get your fix.

 


In this case, it’s nourishment. You’re hungry. Craving no doubt. The primal brain can’t distinguish
the health factor of what you want, it can only sense there is hunger and a strong desire, so it’s activated and now you’re in fight or flight response mode (uh, really the FIGHT response). 

 

 

Pizza food craving

It then does what it can to

help you ‘hunt and kill’ so

you can sate your hunger

(cravings).

 

 

 

 

 

Thus, you cave and grab for the bag of chips or stop in at the nearest ice cream parlor or find some source of sugar to pair with the coffee. Or, in the above pic, pounce on the pizza like a puma. It’s a battle that millions of people lose every day (or win depending on how you look at it).

 

(Please note--Addicts and alcoholics have it worse because their brain connections are already wired to bypass certain areas of the brain, causing them to forget negative consequences from their substance use—and, of course, the damage from the substance use causes further brain-processing impairment. If you are suffering from addiction, please go seek help immediately and make sure you receive daily support and reinforcement to compensate for this physiological difference…a one day at a time, every day approach is key.)

 

So, what can you do to override the primal brain reaction and stick to your diet?

 

Stop fighting it. It won’t work.

 

Our primal part of our brain can act like a turbo button that overrides the rest of us—because it is wired to protect us. It’s important to realize this distinction. If you know you are being protected for survival purposes then you can work with the part of the brain that’s designed to protect you.

 

Some common ways of working with the primal brain reactions that can help it to de-escalate so that you can return to the executive functioning part of your brain include calming it down and reassuring you’re okay and safe. Here are a few methods that work really well when you’re angered (and become the scary green Hulk):

 

  • Pausing and looking at your immediate environment and saying the different colors you see which disrupts the escalation process (you can do this silently of course)
  • You can take deep breaths (inhale and exhale deeply to the count of 4)
  • Or you could also release the adrenaline rush by doing push ups or some form of exercise
  • Ask yourself, “what experience does the remind me of from childhood?” and then reassure the little child within you

 

Again these work really well when you’re angered and can help when you’re hungry too, yet in my experience, hunger cravings lasts like a fog rolling in from sea with no sunlight to be seen for days. Eventually people give in and satisfy their craving. Thus, the easiest thing to do is to find a healthy alternative. No, I’m not saying grab an apple. I’m going to suggest that you sate the craving, not the hunger, with a healthy alternative.

 

Cravings and hunger are different. If you are craving a pizza, an apple won’t cut it.  The thing to ask yourself is, “what am I craving?” Is it something sweet, crunchy, salty, chewy, or a happy memory? Then satisfy the craving with a the best yummy substitute you can find or create.

 

Here are some of my favorites alternatives:

 

  • When craving something salty and crunchy, pumpkin seeds in their shell seem to work for me. Not only are they low-varb and full of iron, they remind me of popcorn and I can go to town crunching and crunching. Afterward, I’m totally sated and not desiring popcorn or chips…unless my sweet tooth then gets activated…

 

  • My sweet tooth is my biggest craving monster and often gets treated with a low-carb hot chocolate (I make it with almond milk and stevia and add some cinnamon and cayenne for some spice). I will sometimes pair it with a square of dark chocolate that I let melt in my mouth with each sip of hot chocolate. Of course, I have low-carb paleo cakes that I microwave in a bowl and shakes in a blender made with chocolate or vanilla egg-white protein powder, ice, almond milk and a dollop of almond butter to sate my ice cream craving. I could go on and on, yet you get the point that I make a substitute and my insulin levels are happy and my cravings are met.

 

  • For spaghetti and pizza cravings, I make a low-carb version using spaghetti squash. I add fresh roma tomatoes, basil from my garden and a drizzle of really good olive oil…you’d be surprised how the similar flavors and textures sate the craving.

 

 

This post won’t go into all the recipes here. There are abundant sites online and I’ve sited a few of them in some of my other posts. What is important for you to realize is that sating your craving and finding a win/win solution will work far better and be longer lasting than if you begrudgingly chomp on kale when you are really craving something sweet (although you could bake the kale and top it off with some stevia…or have it in a salad and add some apple cider vinegar and stevia…or just jump in and make a yummy alternative that satisfies what you really want).

 

Please comment if you have any great alternatives that you turn to when the cravings strike! Happy & healthy eating!!

 


Is Your Brain Starved?

Woman holding coconut to drinkWhen I think about all of the motivations for eating healthy—promises of a longer lifespan, reduction in diseases, losing weight and looking better—the one that most appeals to me is improving my brain. If eating can help me remember things better and process information more quickly then I’m getting an immediate payoff and am therefore more motivated to select healthier food options. The other benefits of a good diet are more delayed and as a human living in an era of immediate gratification, I want results now. That’s why I titled this post about the brain because I’m hoping this will wake you up and motivate you to think about the food choices you’re consuming and whether it is going to help or hurt your brain NOW.

In short, fat is our friend. The brain NEEDS fat. Heck, the brain IS fat (at least more than half of it is composed of fat). So, doesn’t it make sense that it requires lubrication? Think about those poor nerves encased in a myelin sheath that never gets fed properly. It’s like a piece of leather left out in the sun. It dries out. It doesn’t work as effectively. Anyone who has ever read The Seal Skin story can apply that lesson here. (It’s a favorite story of mine and I’ve always wanted to reference it!)

The problem with fat is when we our arteries get clogged and health is risked by consuming it. For years, doctors have encouraged lowering fat when one has high cholesterol. Hundreds of beauty magazines have also encouraged low-fat diets for weight loss. We’ve been conditioned and we’ve seen the consequences. (This blog is inspired by the loss of my mother who lived on a low-fat, barely any calories starved existence for years until her metabolism was ruined and then she gave in and ate foods to sate her deprivated body...which led to losing her health and life to obesity and diabetes. That’s a dire consequence! Of course her body was starved and sugar was the quickest fuel, so her body naturally craved it.)

 

  "Your body is either in glucosis or lipolysis." 

Fat is not bad. Consuming fat with sugar is bad. To put it very simply, our bodies can run on two types of fuel—sugar or fat. When we consume higher carbohydrates, our bodies automatically pick the easiest fuel for energy—sugars (carbs), or glucosis. If we limit the carbs and consume fats, we can switch our bodies into lipolysis (fat-burning machines), which is what our bodies actually crave and run more efficiently on, like a fancy Lamborghini that needs high-end oil and fuel to operate optimally.

Numerous studies reveal a low-carb, high fat diet reduces weight loss, curbs health problems, and improves overall nerve and brain functioning—including easing mood disorders like depression. What’s exciting is that researchers are finally studying this issue in more depth and reporting on it. One recent study published in Annals of Internal Medicine even revealed that the low-carb, high fat diet produces decreased fat, increased lean body mass, and decreased inflammation (a huge component underlying so many diseases) among Caucasians and African Americans.

The takeaway is to feed your brain with healthy fats and decrease your carbs so that it will actually use the fats you ingest. If you have been living on carbs and sugars for a long time, it will take a little bit of time to heal from the withdrawals, yet you should feel increased energy after a few days.

You may also discover improved digestion. One Paleo blogger provides an interesting analysis of the digestion topic in his post “Does Meat Rot in Your Colon? No. What Does? Beans, Grains, and Vegetables!”

Change your diet for two weeks and see how you feel. Sate your body with healthy fats and see how efficiently your brain works. Then post your results in the comments section. Looking forward to learning how it works for you! Blessed wishes and happy healthy eating!

 

 

 


Three Must-Have Supplements to Ease Aging

We are all aging. It’s a good thing. With age, comes wisdom and maturity. (Hopefully.) In today’s world of fighting the appearance of aging, I think we miss the opportunity to embrace all that age gives us. Our elders have much to teach us about the world and have rightfully earned their place as our heroes, mentors and guides along the path. With that stated, our bodies do start giving us certain challenges that make it a little more difficult to move around as we get older, so here are the top three must-have supplements that can help you maintain your mobility and ensure your status as a future elder hero that can guide the younger generations. (Please note these supplements are in addition to – supplement – your multivitamin.)

  1. Glucosamine—I was fortunate enough to have an orthopedic surgeon recommend this to me long ago. I was a candidate for knee surgery and thank goodness he was open to healthy alternatives. I began taking glucosamine sulfate with chondroitin and my knee pain subsided and my mobility improved. It works so dramatically well that my knee pain flares back up if my glucosamine runs out and I miss a day or two. I will find myself absentmindedly rubbing my knee in a meeting and then it dawns on me to quickly refill. Pain and absent-minded knee rubbing disappear! Because of my personal success, it was no surprise that when my golden retriever could not walk or move, my vet recommended glucosamine. My golden is now 14 years old and can still fetch and walk up stairs.
  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids—Omega fatty acids from healthy fish oils tested free of heavy metals and pesticides can help your body in numerous ways. Combing through the research can be exhausting and exciting. To simplify, Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) help our nervous system and organs in our body – even hormone production. Unfortunately, the low-fat diet craze led to a decrease of these healthy fats and gallbladder malfunctioning and other issues resulted. No wonder research shows a positive connection with EFAs to decrease depression and even aid other neurosensory disorders like attention-deficit disorder. Think of our bodies like a new pair of leather boots. After time in the sun (aging), boots need polishing. If they are only dabbed with water (low-fat diet) and not a good polish, they will worsen. EFA’s help our internal organs, our nervous system, and that precious organ that keeps us together – our skin.
  1. Digestive Enzymes—If EFA’s are like a wax for leather boots, digestive enzymes are like the buffing cloth that rubs in the wax and gives the leather a dazzling sparkle. Our natural digestive enzymes decrease as we age. Unhealthy diets of processed foods don’t help. With lack of enzymes, our food doesn’t properly digest and particles on undigested food escape into our intestines where they ferment and breed unhealthy bacteria. Once established, it becomes a vicious battle to restore that delicate bacteria balance. Problems like chronic indigestion, leaky gut syndrome and Candida ensue. I personally use a good enzyme that contains hydrochloric acid, pepsin, l-glutamic acid, and some pancreatic enzymes like amylase, protease and lipase.

There are so many more supplements on the market and shopping in the health section of your favorite grocery store can be overwhelming, if not completely addicting. There are even hundreds of natural cures ailments you didn’t even know you had. I confess to buying many of them and trying new things with as much zeal as a child opening presents on Christmas morning. Yet these are the three must-haves that I make sure I consistently take. I hope you find as much success with them as I have. We only have one body and it’s worth caring for as we age.

 

 


Bloated Stomach? Try this Simple Stomach Cure from the Sea

New ImageI was fifteen years old when I was diagnosed with an ulcer and prescribed a liquid antacid. Fast forward a couple decades, numerous antacid prescriptions and countless stomachaches later, I have learned that antacids were my worst enemy.

Now, for those of you that picked up that antacids are not the primary treatment for ulcers  (an antibiotic is now prescribed to treat the H. Pylori that causes many ulcers and antacids are used to treat the acidity to heal the stomach lining), you're right. I have been given antibiotics as well, yet my stomach issues persisted. I know I'm a sensitive soul, so  I - and practically everyone around me - chalked up my stomach issues to having a "nervous stomach." Ahh, there's nothing more validating than that. Stomach pain coupled with judgement.

Not much time passed before I started playing with my diet. I have been a vegan, vegetarian, balanced my carbs and protein, tried the Zone diet, tested my metabolic type, tried low-carb, Paleo, practiced food combining, took enzymes, did FODMAPS, and a few other things. My stomach problems still continued. I even relented and went to a "real" doctor, had an endoscopy and a colonoscopy and then tried a few medications that made things worse. 

I've learned a few things that work and definitely A LOT of things that make things WORSE. I will coniniue to post and share what has worked for me. For now, I want to share one big solution that has not been widely publicized. In fact, its nemesis - ANTACIDS - are the go-to cure for everyone. Remember, nemesis means enemy. Its opposite. Can you believe that many of us actually have too little stomach acid??

I tested myself by taking some HCl  tablets (Hydrochloric Acid - I used one 650mg HCL with Pepsin) after I was sick and bloated one day. I began feeling relief within 15 minutes. I was stunned. Grateful. What I learned is that our stomach acid actually declines as we age and one of the major precursors to natural HCl in our body is iodine. It also helps regulate our thyroid. (Which regulates our homormones! More posts on that to come!)

Once upon a time, iodine was supplemented in some of our foods, like bread, and was then abandoned. There has been a resurgence in the past few years as studies point out connections between health decline and iodine deficiency - and now some bread manufacturers are supplementing with iodine again. Still, bread (later posts will discuss the challenges of wheat and gluten) is not best source for iodine. Neither is iodized salt (for obvious sodium reasons and iodized table salt is the most depleted source of salt, so a healthier pink himalyan salt would be a better choice). 

The best way to supplement your diet with iodine is through kelp or kelp iodine drops. If you're past your 20's, you could really benefit. If you are past 40, you will be in awe how this simple supplement can improve your digestion.

 


Essential Anxiety Cure Taught by Children

This is in response to a reader who asked why children seem to be able to bounce back from stress more than adults. While it's a bit complicated, there is actually a powerful lesson that adults can learn from children about tackling anxiety.


Children whispering
Do you know children's number one secret for being happy - even after experiencing a stressful event? 

Is it toys? 

No.

Think about how often kids find more pleasure in the wrapping or container than the actual toy you've bought them. Contrast that with adults' relentless pursuit of toys and material possessions.

Is it their pecking order in a group?

Not that either. (So no wonder the adult ego-driven motivations for status end up feeling empty.)

How about the ability to laugh and play?

Getting closer! But there's a reason behind the ability to do that.

It's living in the moment!

Time feels slower to children because they are completely present in the moment, responding to the stimuli in front of them. Most adults are living in reaction to the past or trying to plan for the future (where fear and anxiety dwells) that they end up losing precious time in the process - and, like a dog chasing its tail, they go after elusive goals like material possessions and status. Exhausted, adults start drinking or taking anti-anxiety relievers to relax. Yet those mood-altering substances don't stop the adult from focusing on the past of future, so the vicious cycle continues.

The cure is to endless anxiety and frustration is to stop and live in the moment. As a quick experiment, stop and take note of all of the sensory input right now: What is your skin feeling? What can you smell? Take a deep breath and really feel it. Listen to all of the sounds around you. Taste and really savor what you're eating and drinking. After doing this, did you notice that your worries temporarily diminished? (Be sure to try this out the next time you are flooded with anxiety...and keep practicing this for longer and longer time periods.)

Slowing down to the present paradoxically slows down time, allowing one to fully live life. It’s also the magical secret to unlocking the imagination—and releasing the power to play. Live in the moment and you will be more happy and content with life - and you won’t reach your grave regretting that you never fully lived.

 


It’s International Conflict Resolution Day – How are you Celebrating this Day?


Conflict res day 2010_WEB_2Today is International Conflict Resolution Day. While started by the Association for Conflict Resolution five years ago, it became recognized as the International Conflict Resolution Day in 2006. One of the main goals of the celebration is to recognize that there are ways to solve conflict through peaceful measures.

When receiving my ACR training in mediation, the biggest thing I learned was to look at the problem differently. The key was to find a mutually satisfactory solution rather than drawing a line in the sand and focusing on differences. I was taught the same thing as a psychotherapist. There is a famous example that illustrates the point perfectly:

Imagine a neighborhood with inviting homes, well-tended yards and tall shade trees where children play together and everyone feels safe. You live in one of the homes and one day a new neighbor moves in next door to you. They are from a different country and their accent is so thick that you can’t quite understand them. You observe many different people coming in and out. You aren’t familiar with their culture and find yourself standing back to observe what they’re about.

One day you go in the back yard and begin picking oranges from the tree. The tree sits in the middle of the property line and you’ve always shared access to its sweet fruits. A woman comes out of the neighboring house yelling at you in a different language. You haven’t seen her before. You are flustered because you don’t know what she’s saying. You are in a hurry because you need the oranges for the dinner party you are throwing and oranges are one of the essential ingredients in the meal. You aren’t about to drop them as they are the last four oranges on the tree and you’re in a time crunch.

What you don’t know is that she, the grandmother, is also in the middle of making an urgent recipe that is a healing remedy for her son (the owner of the home). Her grandson just tried to pick the oranges from the tree, but he couldn’t reach them. He went in to get her help and then she saw you taking them and panicked. She also doesn’t speak English very well.

If you had realized her situation, you may not have felt so threatened. Moreover, you may have felt compassion for her as she was tending to her ill son. You may have gladly given her the oranges and even offered to help her in any way you could. On top of that, if you had realized that she only wanted the juice of the oranges whereas you wanted the zest (the peel), you both could have shared the oranges and been happy. 

Mediation, conflict resolution, peacemaking is about trying to find those solutions. It seeks to understand first before becoming defensive.

Conflicts generally grow out of something so simple – a misunderstanding. Then other people come in to defend you and before you know it, there are two mobbing groups against each other. That’s how war can originate

Please know I’m not saying that there aren’t genuine bullying types of people (sociopaths and other people with more extreme personality disorders) out there that have malice in their heart. What I am saying is that more often than not, people have genuine love in their heart and are motivated by that magic quality. So, the next time you begin to feel enraged or defensive with someone – seek to understand first. Listen with your heart and try to feel compassion for the other person or people. Hearts, by the way, speak all languages, so don’t let that deter you when encountering another person that seems different from you. You just might get love in return, which can only make life greater.

MOTHER__TERESA_167909eIn closing, I want to take a moment to remember and honor Mother Teresa for all the amazing peace work she has done in the world – and for the light she has modeled to the rest of us. She once said that she wouldn’t go to an anti-war demonstration, but she would attend a peace rally, so maybe we can also think of today as Peacekeeping Day. 

(Mother Teresa - 26 Aug 10 - 5 Sep 86)

"Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love."


What We Can Do About Bullying

Bullying hurts. It kills. And it impacts everyone – you can be a victim of it, responsible for it, an observer of it, or somehow related to it. The point is that no one is fully removed from it, so it’s in all of our best interests to understand what we can do to confront it.

This is a blog entry and by no means an exhaustive account about what we can do, however, there are some tips that can consistently help a person that has been bullied. I’m placing them here for everyone. If you are a victim, try them and please also reach out and seek help. If you know someone that is a victim of bullying, please reach out to them, support them, and help them to find help. 

  • Breathe - Breathing is often overlooked during anxious situations. We begin to pant or stop our breathing altogether. Take deep breaths (at least four or five of them) and re-center and ground yourself. This will calm you while sending needed oxygen into your blood stream and harnessing your adrenaline, so that you can think and react more clearly. Get in the habit of doing this when waking up and going to sleep along with several times during the day.
  • Do not isolate yourself – It is tempting to withdrawal and not share what’s happening to you. Now more than ever you need people around you. Talk to family members. Find support. Join a support group. Find friends that like activities that you like (book reading clubs, outdoor hiking groups, church, gym, other hobby groups, etc.). Make sure to surround yourself with people that help build your self-esteem.
  • Realize that you are in control of you – Bullies like to take control by manipulating and scaring you. You can lessen their impact by taking control of you, your actions, your thoughts, and your responses to them. When you take control of you, you fan the flames of inner strength and resilience.
  • Make a plan – Find action steps to take to deal with the bullying. Document what is happening and write down what you can do to stop it. Enlist help from loved ones and/or a professional to assist you in figuring out your options.
  • Find additional strength in things that matter to you – Think about things, people, places and dreams you love. Cultivate those parts of yourself as that is what makes you unique and special. Feeding your passion takes power away from bullies.
  • Learn something new – Take a class at the community center or community college in something new, like pottery, writing, computers, art, yoga, foreign language, cooking, etc.
  • Nurture yourself – Remind yourself of your strengths and gifts. Write them down. Do things that you love to do and tell yourself positive things (GET RID OF THE NEGATIVE SELF-TALK).
  • Have faith and believe in the power of transformation – Yours and the world’s transformation. Give yourself self-love and find strength to make a difference.
  • Keep healthy boundaries – Beware of people that make you feel guilty, less than them, or continually make it about them and ignore your feelings.
  • Advocate on others’ behalf – This helps build your strength and makes you feel empowered (and not alone) along with developing your empathy and compassion for others (because the worst way a bully can control you is if they turn you into them).

WHEN TO SEEK HELP

If you or someone you love is continually reliving the abusive event, has become hyperalert and easily startled, has developed a hopeless outlook on life, is dealing with anxiety, nightmares, insomnia, lack of concentration, is gaining weight and/or has lost their appetite, is acting out with self-sabotaging behaviors (cutting, drinking, engaging in risky behavior, sexually acting out, etc.), and especially if you/they are having any thoughts of suicide or killing someone else – SEEK HELP IMMEDIATELY. 

Bullying has numerous victims in schools, workplaces, communities, retirement homes, and even in your home with your loved ones. Most bullies are toxic and are bent on control. They often do not see their victims as real people (dehumanizing them by seeing them as "the other" or even as a possession). They are in a game to win and sometimes their displayed remorse is part of their game. Bullies are usually immature, narcissistic, and highly competitive. They may not genuinely like themselves and be out of touch with their true emotions. They may have mental health issues and can swing from being loving and caring to dangerous and cunning. Keep your boundaries and don’t reinforce their bullying. Don’t laugh when they tease another person and make inappropriate jokes. Don’t engage them or bully with them. Say no and help stop the tide of bullying.  If you see someone bullied, reach out and give them your care because we can all do something to help heal the pain of bullying.

 


October is National Bullying Prevention Month – “Take Your Power Back” Bullying Prevention Seminar this Saturday, October 16 Downtown Austin (4-5:30PM)

Bullying is pervasive. It happens in schools, workplaces, in neighborhoods—and even in your home. Bullying spans across the ages as it occurs among children, in dating and intimate relationships, between siblings, with parents, against the eldery, and the ill. Cyberbulling (using text messages, social networking sites and the internet) has created another level to bullying, making its deleterious effects lasting and almost inescapable. Cyberbullying has become so bad that iSafe foundation statistics have shown that ONE in THREE adolescents have been threatened online.

In response to Bullying Prevention Month and the alarming trend of bullying, Keys to Evolution is holding its first seminar focusing on how to protect yourself from bullying. We’ll look at the evolutionary trait of equity and fairness and discuss what prompts people to bully (the lure of power and control) and what you can do to empower yourself in abusive and bullying situations. We’ll also discuss what you can do to help others that have been impacted by damaging bullying behavior.  You’ll receive practical tips to help you heal, survive, and thrive from bullying experiences. You’ll also learn proactive steps to prevent bullying. You’ll learn how to spot an abuser before they bully and the secret manipulative tricks they use to bully people and how to deal with cyberbullying. You’ll receive strategies for dealing with various bullying situations along with things you can do to help your community. 

This seminar is for anyone that has ever experienced bullying or anyone that wants to learn what to do prevent it from happening in the first place.

The Keys to Evolution – Bullying Prevention Seminar “Take Your Power Back from Bullies” will be held this Saturday, October 16 from 4-5:30 PM at the Austin History Center meeting room on 810 Guadalupe. (Come downtown, get empowered and enjoy a nice dinner downtown afterward.) The cost is $49 per person with a percentage of the proceeds going to iSafe Foundation. Participants will also receive a copy of my book, "Ten Keys to Staying Empowered  in a Power Struggle." To register, see http://nomorebullying.eventbrite.com/.

 


First I Ate Chocolate Cake, Then I Ate Pasta - Reflections of an Empty Nester One Year Later

What happens when a single mother becomes an empty nester? I shared what I was experiencing before it happened in a post on  May 28, 2009 (Adapting to an Empty Nest and Sharing Parenting Pearls Learned Along the Way).  In the post, I described that I might have been feeding a few of my feelings with homemade chocolate cake. Today’s post shares reflections of my first year as an empty nester and a few things I learned about grieving, finding yourself, loving from a distance, and letting your children soar when they leave the nest.

Anyone who knows me knows that my daughter is the most important person in my life. We’re extremely close. I feel so lucky to be her Mom. She is my sun and fills me with meaning and purpose for living. My whole adult life has been spent making decisions around her. (What is the best food she can eat?  Do I let her watch TV or do I ban TV? What school is best for her? Which neighborhood is safest for her? What job can I take that provides me with benefits, security and time for her? What can I do to be a good role model? How can I be the best parent ever and not pass on dysfunctions from previous generations…etc., etc.).

You can imagine it was a little painful to see her go – especially when she was moving half a country away. Not so easy to jump in a car and make weekend trips.  Consequently, I felt grief and sadness. I also found myself at a loss for what I wanted in life. Sure, it was easy to fantasize and dream about things I could do in the future while living a practical life today that focused on being a good Mom (which admittedly brought me more joy than anything else I could do in life). Yet, now that “someday in the future” was here and I didn’t know what to do. I also felt too sad and numb to just immediately jump on the “pursue your dreams” train.

As a healthy response to this new phase in my life (after all I’m a counseling psychotherapist and surely know the best things to do in these kinds of situations), I decided to commit to doing everything the same for one year. In other words, I wouldn’t make any drastic changes. I’d allow the internal changes to naturally surface instead. I’d give myself time to grieve or do whatever I needed to do. I would not commit to anything that resulted in an external change as it might disrupt my full healing. It takes a baby 10 months to grow in the womb. Surely, it would take some time for me to grow into this new life phase.

The Change

It did take time to adjust. I kept focusing on seeing my daughter, planning for our visits, and was pretty certain that I hadn’t been impacted by her departure at all. I felt absolutely fine. Normal. Life hadn’t changed. She and I were just experiencing longer trips away from each other.

Denial. It’s a powerful psychological defense.

She and I were both changing. She was finding friends and learning how to adjust. She was blossoming and coming into her own. Her adjustment appeared smooth. Our first visits with each other involved big hugs and extreme joy followed by bickering followed by tears followed by long talks of processing some of the changes that were taking place. We were still extremely close, yet we were on these new journeys that included diverging paths.

I tried to remain busy. I felt like I was living life as I had when she was home. It wasn’t until five months after she left that I realized I wasn’t cooking like I used to cook (I love to cook, so this was a big deal). I was on the phone with my sister one day when I informed her that I was finally cooking. Then I looked down at the saucepan filled with homemade pasta sauce and realized I had only cooked pasta for the past four months, except this time I was making homemade sauce instead of getting it from a jar.

Those are the kind of realizations that shatter denial like a bullet to a windshield. Tears that wouldn’t come before finally drenched my cheeks. I sobbed and realized life had changed. She wasn’t going to come back and be my little girl that I would get to take care of every day. I had to stand up and take care of me now – and let her be the amazing young adult woman she was becoming. 

What I learned

In reality, she and I were both coming into our own. She’s pursuing her passion in school and loving it. I’ve received calls where she excitedly gushes, “Mom, I feel like I was made for this.” There’s nothing that makes a parent feel any better than hearing that kind of enthusiasm from their grown child. In addition, she has inspired me to revisit my own hidden passions and dreams. 

One year later, rather than clinging to the days of yesteryear, I am settled into the now.  The lessons I’ve learned to date are these:

·          Parenthood doesn’t stop, it just changes – and you have to change with it.

·          Dreams don’t die, some dreams just get started later in life.

·          A critical part of parenting means being the positive support to your children’s passion – the world is full of no’s and negativity, so provide the YES in their lives and be their ray of light.

·          Be real, truthful and vulnerable with your children and they’ll be the same way with you.

·          Set healthy boundaries that are consistent and firm and you’ll give your children a foundation stronger than the Rock of Gibraltar.

·          Love heals all wounds and patience is a necessity.

·          Change is part of life – responding to change from the inside results in growth.

·          What you eat can reveal a lot abut what what you’re feeling. 

 


When Things Go Wrong - Travel!

Have you ever noticed that summer comes at just the right time? Exhaustion from life’s demands seems particularly high around this time. It’s as if mental burnout rises alongside the rising seasonal temperatures (as experienced here in the U.S and definitely in Texas).  If you can relate, traveling is your antidote.

In today’s economy, vacations at home (“staycations”) have become popular. The downside to a staycation, however, (and, no, this is not a paid endorsement from a travel agency) is that you may miss something critical that a travel experience provides you—fresh perspective.

We get so wrapped up in daily rituals that we end up getting stuck in a box and then we feel overwhelmed with life. Tunnel vision is the result.

The solution to tunnel vision is getting out of the box of your everyday experiences and changing your surroundings. This allows you to see things from a different point of view and to gain a fresh perspective. You can discover alternative solutions that you would have never dreamed possible. Traveling is the best way to achieve it, as Kent Nerburn points out in his book, “Simple Truths.”

Travel, no matter how humble, will etch new elements in your character. You will know the cutting moments of life where fear meets adventure and loneliness meets exhilaration. You will know what it means to push forward when you want to turn back…you will understand that there are a thousand, million ways to live, and that your life will go on to something new and different and every bit as worthy as the life you are leaving behind.

Whether you’re leaving a piece of life behind or an old way of seeing a situation, travel can have a profound affect on you. It can reinforce deep bonds with your family and loved ones. It can open your heart and mind to possibilities. It can connect you to your inner passions and dreams. It can uplift your spirit and restore your energy. It can also serve to foster brotherhood with all of mankind.

Whatever is happening in your life right now—deadlines, relationship troubles, career challenges, grief, money troubles, parenting issues, crisis of faith, general malaise—go out and discover your personal solutions by traveling. Make plans for a real vacation. Leave for a weekend getaway. Learn new cultures. Go explore. Have an adventure. Then drop me a line (KimberlyATencompasswf.com) and tell me how it changed your life.

Bon voyage !


Why New Years’ Resolutions Fail and How to Make them Succeed

Thinking about making some New Year resolutions? Before you do, consider this: what you focus on expands. Focus on avoiding something (e.g. drinking, overeating, procrastinating) and you just might ensure its continued success. As an example, 98% of people dealing with stress tend to wake up at night ruminating about the thing that bothers them. It might be a fight with a child, an argument with a coworker, burgeoning mortgage bills, illness, or something else. It makes sense to focus on the problem. Yet, like the old adage, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, the problem will get the energy, which only serves to reinforce the rumination. They key is to focus on the opposing force of the problem-the solution.  

To illustrate, let’s use the example of the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, sloth, greed, anger, gluttony, and lust). Numerous stories throughout time teach caution about succumbing to these behaviors. The message is reinforced to us at a young age by parents, teachers, books, and the media. For instance, recall Star Wars, episode 3, where Anakin Skywalker transforms into Darth Vader after allowing fear, envy, anger, and pride to mask his heart and intuition. In the episode, Yoda warns Anakin not to focus on the dark side of the force.

Like Darth Vader, human beings focus on the dark side of the force much of the time. I see it in myself, my friends, my family, and my clients. We fall of the bike of positive thinking and start ruminating on the negative and what we’re trying to avoid. Don’t believe me? Look at these top 13 New Year resolutions in the United States. The very first one is to lose weight with managing debt coming in second place. Both of these resolutions focus on the problem instead of the solution. Perhaps that’s why more than 68% of people will give up on their resolutions within the first two weeks.

People would be more successful if they focused on the light side of the force. Instead of making a resolution to lose weight, try making an intention to take care of your body with nourishing food, love and care. That love and care might consist of vitamins, exercise, deep breathing, emollient lotions, uplifting fragrances, plenty of water, and listening. Let your body speak to you about what it feels. A tummy ache might be a red flag that something is bothering you. Maybe putting up better boundaries and treating yourself with respect is needed. You may not hear this critical wisdom if you’re getting mad at your body for not fitting in your clothes.

Regarding managing your debt, can you tell this resolution focuses on lack? Treat your money with love, care and gratitude. Notice everything you have and how fortunate you are that you have the ability to pay for water, electricity, and things so often taken for granted. Debt begins to melt away (and never take hold in the first place) when we manage our money with gratitude. What happens is that people tend to focus on what they don’t have or how little money they or their partner is making, which leads to a vicious cycle of spending to feel better and then regretting. Stop the cycle by appreciating the joy that $1 gives you. The thrill of that hot shower. The warmth of the extra blanket on your bed. The comfort of the fuzzy slippers or soft socks. That is where the magic lives and abundance multiplies.

As for those seven deadly sins, try focusing on their complementary positives—the seven joys. Instead of avoiding greed, think of expanding how much you share. Instead of battling lust, try encouraging people’s soulful dreams. Instead of resisting anger, give yourself nourishing love. Instead of avoiding becoming a sloth (couch-potato syndrome), allow yourself to dance more. Instead of inhibiting your inner glutton, try releasing your inner artist and seek quality over quantity. Instead of hiding from your proud ego, focus on fostering unconditional self-acceptance. Finally, instead of detaining your green-eyed monster of envy, try re-focusing on gratitude in the moment. 

If you’ve gotten anything from this article, I hope it’s that attitude is everything. Please don’t beat yourself up. Take it one day at a time and keep readjusting your sights on the light. It will become natural over time. If you want help, you can try out my new texting tool for free. It’s www.InstantMotivator.com and is designed to help you stick to your positive goals. Type in ACAFreeTrial for your two-week free trial.

Happy 2010! May the next decade bring you joyous light, soulful meaning, loving relationships, and dreams that come true! 


How to Raise Your Child to Survive in Today’s Chaotic World

guardian_angel_watching_over_children_bridge
If you are a parent or have ever felt that emotions were something that could be destructive, please read on. This is perhaps the most important information I can share.

I received a comment about yesterday’s blog post, which triggered this response.  I addressed the concept of “fearmines” (fear buttons that trigger hidden emotional landmines). It may have been a bit oversimplified, but it was also right on target. Today, I’m going to get a little deeper and describe why hidden emotional landmines are actually at the heart of most of our problems today (crime, risky youth behaviors, depression, unemployment, divorce, greed, war) and how it all ties back into our emotional regulation system that was developed in infancy.  I’m also going to share what you can do to help your child develop a healthy emotional regulation system so that they can survive in today’s chaotic world.

Infants (and children) have brains and body systems that are not fully developed (e.g., nervous system, hormones, etc.). Because these systems are still in development, infants and children are extremely vulnerable and highly dependent. As such, babies and children rely on their parent/caregiver as an external system to regulate their care. In other words, imagine having half of a heart, half of a lung, half of a liver, half of a kidney, etc., etc, and needing another human being to compensate and basically act as the missing parts of the heart, liver, kidney, etc., etc. It’s more than co-dependence and completely needed for the child’s healthy growth. Just as the baby depended on the mother in the womb for survival and development, the infant and child STILL depends on the mother/caregiver after birth.

The emotional regulation system becomes disrupted when adequate care is not given to an infant and child. This includes ignoring a baby’s cries, telling them to shut up, or confusing their cries with something else (like shoving a pacifier in their mouth when they want their diaper changed). While we never respond to a baby perfectly 100% of the time, if the number of inadequate responses exceeds the adequate responses, then the baby forms a maladjusted emotional regulation system. This is also preverbal, so later in life some external stimuli can elicit an internal anxiety response that was felt as a baby but now doesn’t make sense for the grown adult to understand. Instead, they feel like something else takes over them (sometimes referred to as an emotional hijacking).

To recognize the symptoms of this disruption in an adult (or yourself) includes common responses like these: 

·                *Feeling like you can’t trust your emotions and that they can get out of control

·                *Denying that you have troublesome feelings

·                *Believing that relationships are not important or, conversely, never being able to be alone

·                *Always trying to be an ideal person that someone (or your parent) will love and finally approve

·                *Cutting off from others

·                *Constant relocating and/or job changes

·                *Battling or overpowering others and/or using others for your own gain

·                *Escaping through drinking, drug use, sexual addictions, food addictions, etc.

The challenge as parents is that we tend to fall back on our own unconscious learning and repeat the same behaviors with our children—which is how such patterns repeat themselves through the generations (generational transmission).

Not surprisingly these symptoms show up in society. Societal symptoms of maladjusted emotional systems form when enough people grow up without healthy emotional regulation systems (reinforcing the problem). Such societal symptoms may include:

·                *Focusing on external productivity over internal emotional states and healthy relationships (like over-focusing on what the child wants to be when they grow up; over-focusing on child’s grades in school; over-focusing on how much money someone makes, what kind of car they drive, etc., etc.)

·                *Chronic relationship disruption and emotional illness (which can be seen in rising divorce rates, escalating depression and other mental health related illnesses, increased crime, increased bullying behaviors, increased self-centeredness, decreased compassion and tolerance for emotion in others) 

A solution to this problem is to work on ourselves and form a new healthy emotional regulation system. Oftentimes, therapy does this because the therapist can sit with the person and affirm their feelings, allowing the person to fully feel their own feelings and then safely respond to them without judgment. This process helps to develop new neural networks of self-care (new emotional regulation systems). In addition, people can do this same thing for loved ones, join support groups, journal about feelings, obtain spiritual support, and do things that provide safe love and emotional healing. 

When the person is able to form a new healthy emotional regulation system, they are able to sit with their feelings (even the uncomfortable ones) and are more able to tolerate other people’s emotions. When that happens, they can also sit with their needy infants and children and better respond to their needs without anxiety, frustration or panic. 

Another symptom of a healthy emotional regulation system is relationship repair. Accepting that no one is perfect and conflict will arise is important to remember. The key is to be able to effectively repair your relationships after a disruption. The more immediate the repair, the more neural networks are formed in the healthy emotional regulation system.

As parents and people, it is critical to comprehend the extent that infants and children are dependent on us. We need to make them a priority and attend to them. This does not mean spoiling them with toys—it means being there, loving them, empathizing with their needs, and helping them to understand and attend to their emotions.

Children become out of control when we ignore them and get angry—putting them in time-outs when they aren’t developed enough to understand consequences. We also run into the trap of referring to punishment as “tough love” when we take away a privilege without taking the time to process our children’s feelings and fears and understanding what motivates them to engage in behaviors that may scare us.   

Finally, understanding that our societal values of productivity over relationships may actually be a symptom of inadequate infant/child care can help us to change the narratives that perpetuate infant/child/human emotional abuse. We are making strides in addressing emotional care as a society, but we’re not there yet. Perhaps the current economic problems, rising unemployment rates, risky behaviors in children (increasingly younger sexual promiscuity in children, “hook-ups”, self-abuse like cutting, bullying, school shootings, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide) will wake us up to the real war that we’re in—the war with ourselves and our own internal emotional regulation systems. Focusing on healing our internal war through love, compassion, empathy, healing, tolerance, awareness, and helping each other as a larger family (instead of isolated individuals in big houses) will surely help the next generations to develop healthy emotional regulation systems. Perhaps when that happens, global harmony (aka world peace) can actually be obtainable.


Secrets of How Successful Entrepreneurs Survive Fear

fear Behind every successful entrepreneur lay a field of hidden landmines riddled with fear (“fearmines”). Some were stepped on. Others lay dormant, under the surface, affecting the journey just the same. The key is to be aware of them, know where to step, and what to do when you step on one.

The first and most important thing to know is that EVERYONE has fear.

Successful entrepreneurs just know how to work with it. In fact, successful entrepreneurs were once unsuccessful—the difference is that they continued taking steps on their path in spite of the obstacles (the biggest being their own fears).

àStep one is to get comfortable with your fear and reassure yourself that it’s a natural part of your journey’s landscape.

Once you realize that you’re not alone and that fear is normal, you can then employ measures to avoid needlessly stepping on fearmines all the time.

Fearmines often look a little different. They tend to leave a little bump on the surface and can easily be seen IF you take the time to look. Once observed, you’ll recognize it as some old sensitive wound.

Maybe the wound was something your parents told you (“Get your head out of the clouds!” when you were daydreaming or coming up with new inventions.) Or perhaps it was from being ridiculed by your peers, the ones who insisted you’d never amount to anything and would be doomed to poverty.

àWhatever the wound, take time to recognize it so you can avoid stepping on it and repeating the damage (e.g. like when you repeat the damage by yelling at yourself “Get your head out of the clouds!” after you’ve experienced a let down).

Another common fearmine includes control. Being able to adapt to change and uncertainty is the prerequisite for succeeding as an entrepreneur. People who need a high degree of control will tend not to be as spontaneous, imaginative, flexible, and inventive. Usually they’re like this because of fear.

When we feel out of control and overwhelmed, we tend to take control. However, control is a tricky illusion. The irony is that our fear reaction tends to make us take control where we don’t have it and give up control where we do have it (with ourselves).

àTake stock of your feelings and recognize if fear is making you overcompensate with controlling and/or self-sabotaging behaviors.

A couple of common fearmines have been addressed, but what do you do when actually you step on one?

Failure (getting lost in the fear) is part of the process. Fully feeling the fear and moving through it builds your resilient muscles—and it’s exactly these muscles that make you thrive as an entrepreneur (and as an artist, as a human being, as a parent, as a soul). What counts is taking that deep breath and continuing on the journey knowing that unresolved issues will still be there, but you’ll be stronger the next time when you inevitably reach them again.

àRecognize and repair once you’ve stepped on a fearmine. Honor it. Feel the feelings.  Control your part and avoid overcompensating. Then get back up and keep going. 

By now you’re seeing the pattern that fear creates action (even if inaction)—actions which aren’t always healthy for our self-worth or our entrepreneurial ventures. Understanding how your personal fearmines influence your behavior and how best to compensate for them makes the difference. Knowing this is a normal process helps you to keep going. Recovering from a fearmine is the success. 

Remember that everyone has felt like a pretender and questioned their talent and venture. It’s fundamental human nature to seek understanding, desire approval, and dream of complete acceptance—and fear when we don’t have these things. To fear is human and to recover from it, divine. When treated properly, fear can propel us into depth, growth, and inventiveness beyond any of our perceived limitations.

If you would like coaching with this issue or any other area in your life, please take advantage of Encompass Work & Family’s FOUR-YEAR ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL –

A trio of sessions (3 hours) PLUS our proprietary and most sought-after Key Essential Life Balance Assessment (an MRI of your life that helps you learn exactly where you’re overcompensating and under-focusing and how to get back on track in each area of your life)…

The trio of sessions and assessment is only $299 ($675 regular) through the end of 2009. 

You may be redeem your paid gift certificate now or at anytime through April 2010. 


Three Secrets of a Healthy Mind

There was a legendary story in a corporation where I once worked about a person who suffered from a “nervous breakdown.” Apparently, they had a panic attack right before they were going to give a speech at a company event. I was told that the corporate “bigwig” quit right after that and was never heard of again. The story circulated among the employees as a kind of warning to not lose your sanity (or show any emotions) while on the job, lest you suffer the same fate.

Have you ever heard of someone having a nervous breakdown? Do you remember how it felt to hear about it? To date, I’ve heard a number of such stories. It seems each time I have, the person that shares the account of someone who “lost it” fell into a whisper and then shuddered in fear.  As a counselor, I have a different outlook and knowledge that allows me to understand these experiences. I’ve also learned key factors that contribute to mental distress and some things that can be done to overcome them. As a follow-up to last week’s post, here are the top three factors for keeping your cool and self-regulating (the three secrets that healthy minds already exhibit).

1.     1. Listen to your feelings. The first and most important tip of all is NOT to keep your emotions at bay. Paradoxically, it is being able to be in tune with our innermost feelings that provide us with the ability to heal them. Our downfall is when we deny feelings for so long that a giant backlog of unexpressed emotion wallops us when least expected.

2.     2. Express emotion in balance. This ties back into the last post. Sometimes we have been trained/conditioned/raised to experience our feelings in a not so healthy way. If not raised to embrace and understand our emotions, we may avoid them, overdramatize them, express them without restraint, or swing from avoiding to over-expression. A balanced expression of emotion occurs when there is continual mindfulness about your inner state.

3.    3. Develop healthy relationships. Healthy relationships support and encourage you. Research shows that healthy relationships have a significant impact on your health, emotional wellbeing, and overall quality of life. Healthy relationships provide accommodation, respect, support, love, and commitment. The unhealthy range of relationships cultivates anxiety, negativity, conflict, verbal aggression, and withdrawal.

Please seek help immediately if you’re having troubles expressing balanced emotion and/or if your relationship(s) fall into the unhealthy range. There are a number of resources (along with free counseling clinics in your area) that can assist you. Please check out the links on the side bar of this page for resources.


How the Hidden Blueprint of Childhood Directs Your Career

Brain_blueprint_pic

How can a damaged upbringing hurl you into career greatness?

You’ve probably heard of numerous examples where people have beaten all odds and succeeded in accomplishing their dreams. The subtle message in these cases seems to suggest that rough beginnings and hardships are the secret ingredients to success. That’s why I laughed and laughed when I heard the line “Don’t fix your Daddy issues!” on Samantha Who?, a former ABC sitcom starring Christina Applegate as an amnesiac who finds herself in a successful job but learns she wasn’t a very nice person to many people. The friend that cautioned her from getting to know her father better said that those initial family problems were exactly why she was so good in her job. (Clearly this advice isn’t so good for my job. But if you watch the show, you’ll learn she’s a much happier person by reuniting with her emotions and changing her former greed at all costs approach to life.)

Similarly, I’m often asked how our childhoods can affect our jobs—especially the risk-taking nature of an entrepreneur. It’s highly individual of course, but here’s a theory that can satiate your curiosity a bit. See if you can identify yourself in any of the following categories and learn how it impacts you, your loved ones and your career and  business ventures.

The attachment theory is one of my favorites and a lot of empirical research has given it more validity over the years. The simple description of attachment theory is how you initially bonded with your primary caregiver (Mother? Father? Adopted parent?) forms the basis of how you will interact (or attach) to everything else in your life. This can be a relationship, hobby, home, career and/or your business venture. 

Secure Attachment – The person who has a secure attachment received the perfect balance of love and nurturing from their parent. The parent was attentive to their needs and empathetic (could feel their feelings). The parent was not intrusive (bugging the baby even if the baby expressed displeasure) or neglectful (not paying attention to the baby). The securely attached person grows up with a sense of confidence, trust, and wisdom. They do not stay in situations that do not work. For example, they would move on if a relationship or venture showed clear signs of failure. Conversely, they would not just give up either. They would make the appropriate amount of effort. (Not everyone has this attachment style, but it’s something we can all learn to cultivate in life.

Avoidant Attachment – The avoidant person had a parent that was more neglectful. The parent could not empathize or was just so busy that they could not be as responsive to their child. Consequently, the child learned that being alone was normal. The avoidant adult is not as good with empathy. Moreover, they do not handle intimacy very well as it can feel suffocating and provoke anxiety. They prefer to keep a distance. This can translate into getting into relationships but not being very close (perhaps traveling or working a lot to maintain adequate distance). It can also mean growing tired of ventures and needing new things to do more frequently.

Insecure Attachment – An insecure attachment simply means that the parent swung from being available to not being available, leaving the baby confused and feeling more anxious about losing and/or attracting the parent. The insecure adult brings this underlying anxiety into their relationships and constantly battles with the fear of losing relationships and the desire to have distance. This person most experiences the tension of the togetherness and separateness continuum. In their venture, they may vacillate about what to do as a consequence.

Paying attention to your anxiety is key to healing the wound if you find yourself identifying with the latter two styles. Re-nurturing yourself can help shift you into a more secure attachment style. You can also go to a counselor or coach as this is one of the secret reasons such processes work. The bond you develop with your therapist or coach can form a new attachment style when your interactions are trusting, open and positive. 

(Stay tuned for the next blog post as it will discuss ways you can self-nurture and self-heal.)


Heed the Warnings of Your Internal Alarm System (aka Feelings!)


Feelings_monkeys

Have you ever gotten overwhelmed by your feelings? Maybe you thought they were negative feelings and wanted to get rid of them right away. If so, you might want to stop and heed the message the next time you have any of these three feelings (fear, guilt, anxiety) because they might be trying to tell you something.

As counselors, mothers, teachers (and hopefully your heart) tells you, feelings have a purpose. They tell us if a situation or a person is safe. They inspire us to do greater things (like the love story behind the creation of the Taj Mahal!). They can also alert us to change. As you can guess, difficulties arise when people ignore their feelings - or when they focus so much on one feeling that they become stuck in it. This is especially true when negative feelings like fear, guilt or anxiety rise up. Yet, before you dismiss these feelings (or get stuck in them), try to examine their underlying message and see what change is called for in your life.
FEAR: Fear can warn us about the gravity of a situation. It encourages internal change. If you feel stuck in fear, try meditating on courage. As you cultivate the courage, you’ll be able to make the necessary internal changes to adapt to a situation and the fear will melt away. 

GUILT: Guilt provides insight and helps to better understand ourselves and others, allowing us to re-examine the root causes and responsibility for given situations. Too much guilt can be caused from a lack of internal boundaries. If you experience frequent guilt when you’re not responsible for it, try meditating on self-love and reassurance. It’s like the Golden Rule, but flipped. Treat YOURSELF as you treat others. By noticing your own self-talk and replacing self-criticism with love and reassurance, you’ll let go of taking too much responsibility for situations that you don’t control—and the guilt will subside. 

ANXIETY: Anxiety also helps to motivate us to change. It signals action. Problems occur when anxiety creates paralysis. In addition, it becomes tempting to judge oneself when you’re experiencing anxiety, which can lead to feeling more anxious. If this occurs, try meditating and finding peace of mind. Relax, take deep breaths and allow peace to override the anxiety. Oftentimes, a call to action will reveal itself when we let go of the anxiety. Then moving into action will decrease the original need for the anxiety.



What to do if the Weather is Bringing You Down

 

   Gloomy weather

Short overcast days and long cold nights can make you sad. There’s even a psychiatric  diagnosis that uses sad as an acronym – Seasonal Affective Disorder. It happens when you lose energy, can’t seem to focus, crave sugar and “bad” carbohydrates, and have a sense of defeat with feelings of worthlessness. Some say that people with this response are in tune with nature and are empathically experiencing a kind of winter period alongside the trees and shrubs (when winter land is kind of glum and non-fruitful too). Yet, the world goes on and doesn’t seem to allow for hibernation in humans. Perhaps that’s why western medicine has stepped in to help the half a million Americans that complain about SAD every year.

 

The solution is light therapy. People can receive up to 30 minutes of light at an intensity of 10,000 lux (in lumination measurement). To contrast, your household lamps generally put off about 100 lux whereas a bright sunny day can dose you with 50,000 lux or more. Researchers are investigating different timing periods and different light sources. In one study, Columbia University researchers discovered impressive results by calibrating light exposure to natural melatonin rhythms. The difference shows improvement in 80% of the patients that were timed appropriately as opposed to 38% (Mother Nature must be really good as most of these patients’ SAD symptoms improve with the onset of spring).

Still, if you can’t wait for spring, check out the Society of Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms to learn more. But before you run out to get your light therapy, know that certain medications and conditions can cause retinal damage from light therapy. This includes: St. John’s

Wort (a natural herb for treating depressive symptoms), Lithium (used for bipolar treatment), Melatonin (a natural sleep aid), antipsychotic medications, and conditions like diabetes and retinal conditions.


The Danger of Getting Stressed Out by the Current Economy

No matter what country you live in, you most likely feel effects from the current global economic difficulties. People are losing homes, jobs, relationships, and security. When this happens, desperation and despair takes over. Stress thrives and is contagious.

According to a survey by the by the American Psychological Association (APA), 58% of people take their stress out on their loved ones. Other APA research reveals that stress manifests as illness in the body for even more people—up 77% of people in stress report having physiological symptoms and 73% of people in stress reported psychological symptoms. When this happens, more people are impacted by stress and a viscous stress cycle continues to grow and expand.

What can you do to keep stress at bay? Take time to heal yourself before stress gets out of control. Take time to breathe throughout the day (deep breathing can be a miracle cure for many ailments). Remember what’s important. Get back to basics. Stress thrives in chaos and confusion, and tends to diminish in simplicity. Live simply—from the heart—and you will feel better. So will the people around you.

 

If you are experiencing serious side-effects of stress, please seek help with a therapist or counselor immediately. Stress gets worse if left untreated. If you're out of a job and can't pay, many will work with you if you ask them. Please feel free to contact my office if you would like to discuss your needs.

 


Your $5 a Month Personal Coach for Health, Wealth & Happiness

What one thing do clients get the most out of our sessions? New positive thought processes. While I can work with clients on issues that are unique to them and their circumstances, I have found repeating patterns among many - especially in these current economic conditions. Fear has been at an all time high right now as people fear losing their savings, jobs, homes, and primary relationships. This is made worse because fearful thoughts form deep neural pathways of negative thinking that reinforce and actually manifest the very thing that's feared ("self-fulfilling prophecy"). The flip side is that you can focus on what you want and create it in your life, like Walt Disney's famous quote "If you can dream it, you can do it."

Many know this, but few achieve it. Why? There are a few reasons. People get distracted and respond to issues in the moment. Fear and negative thinking are difficult to override. The negative messages in the environment (sometimes referred to as the "real world") compete with positive intentions. Over time, people go back to their normal way ("set point") of thinking and believing. For those who can afford it, coaching helps and keeps people on a path that overcomes these obstacles. Yet, not everyone can afford a coach. In addition, coaches cannot be with their clients 24 hours a day.
I'm so excited to share that we have a NEW SOLUTION for you! We have developed InstantMotivator.com to serve as your personal coach. Simply visit the site and create an account to send a motivational message as a text message to your phone at any time interval you select. Some clients have used "I have more money than I can imagine" and had it sent to their phone every three hours. They meditate and imagine it's true every time they see the message...and guess what? It's been working for them. Others have used it to connect to and nurture their inner child, creating peace and healing old emotional wounds. Still others have used it to reignite the love and passion in their relationships. The service is limitless and you can change the message any time to work on a new manifestation or healing. Please visit the site and see the affirmation examples as well. For $5 a month, it'll be the best investment you've made for yourself.
Good luck with InstantMotivator.com and happy healing & manifesting!

P.S. Please share the good news about InstantMotvator.com with other people you know. It's also a great and affordable gift that can really help someone.

Is Fear Driving Your Life?

Cars smaller Confronting fear is the number one challenge you’ll face in every moment of your life. Fear holds us back, controls our behavior, and leads to self-sabotage. Fear is also at the core of hatred, violence, oppression, self-deception, hopelessness, anxiety, and failure. You probably already know some of the common fears:
  • fear of rejection (keeping you from asking that special somebody on a date or applying for that promotion);
  • fear of failure (which keeps you immobilized and in constant procrastination mode); and
  • fear of intimacy and trust (you’ve been burned so you keep people at a distance lest you get hurt again).
    The difficulty is that we often have no idea which fear is at play and how it is silently manipulating us into self-sabotaging acts. That’s why self-examination can be so powerful because we can uncover secret destructive fears and then confront them head-on with courage and awareness. Thus, the first step is to identify the fear that is in the driver’s seat of our actions and the second step is to move through the fear and take back control of our lives.
    So, what if I were to tell you that there is one main fear that’s holding you back according to your personality type? Wouldn’t that be helpful? You could then confront that particular fear in every moment of your life and, in doing so, achieve greater success, peace, and happiness. According to the Enneagram, a personality assessment with roots that date back more than 2,500 years, there are nine major personality types and each type is driven by an underlying fear which needs to be identified and challenged. See if any of the following nine fears apply to you. Perhaps you can relate to all of them, but try to see if any one in particular resonates with you the most.
    1. Fear of being bad, evil or corrupt.
    2. Fear of being unloved and unwanted as you are.
    3. Fear of being worthless and without value apart from your achievements and external status.
    4. Fear of having no identity or no personal significance.
    5. Fear of being helpless, useless, and incapable.
    6. Fear of having no support and guidance—not being able to survive on one’s own.
    7. Fear of being deprived or trapped.
    8. Fear of being harmed or controlled by others, violated.
    9. Fear of loss and separation, of annihilation (extinction).
    If any of these fears speak to you, examine how they might be controlling your life. We tend to compensate for our fears by engaging in exaggerated behaviors in the opposite extreme. So, you might become a perfectionist if you fear being bad. The cure is to 1) recognize the fear 2) reassure yourself that you’re okay and 3) take control by living life from your heart and life purpose and not in reaction to your fear. Then you will be in the driver’s seat of your life and fulfilling the dreams from your heart.

    The Hidden Messages in "Negative" Feelings

    Stop worrying about being emotional. Feelings have a purpose. They can alert us to make necessary changes in our lives or to experience the joy of living. Difficulties arise when people ignore their feelings. Not surprisingly people tend to resist "negative" feelings the most. Who wants to feel pain? But ignoring it can lead to inaction or denial about certain issues in one's life. Read on to see how fear, guilt and anxiety can be a personal message for your life...

    FEAR: Fear can warn us about the gravity of a situation. It encourages internal change. If you feel stuck in fear, try meditating on courage. As you cultivate the courage, you’ll be able to make the necessary internal changes to adapt to a situation and the fear will melt away.

    GUILT: Guilt provides insight and helps to better understand ourselves and others by allowing us to re-examine the root causes and responsibility for given situations. Too much guilt can be caused from a lack of internal boundaries. If you experience frequent guilt when you’re not responsible for it, try meditating on self-love and reassurance. It’s like the Golden Rule, but flipped. Treat YOURSELF as you treat others. By noticing your own self-talk and replacing self-criticism with love and reassurance, you’ll let go of taking too much responsibility for situations that you don’t control—and the guilt will subside.

    ANXIETY: Anxiety also helps to motivate us to change. It signals action. Problems occur when anxiety creates paralysis. In addition, it becomes tempting to judge oneself when you’re experiencing anxiety, which can lead to feeling more anxious. If this occurs, try meditating and finding peace of mind. Relax, take deep breaths and allow peace to override the anxiety. Oftentimes, a call to action will reveal itself when we let go of the anxiety. Then moving into action will decrease the original need for the anxiety.


    The Magic Ingredient for Living an Abundant Life

    I can cite research and statistics all day long and talk about neurological memory and emotional intelligence, but the truth is that none of that matters if you don't have a dream in your heart. Life is best lived with the magic and wonderment of a little child visiting the zoo for the first time...or a little child playing in the rain and jumping in a puddle...or a little child taking great delight in each lick of an ice cream cone. I think you get my point. Seeing something and experiencing something for the first time is exciting, and remember that each new moment in your life is a new experience. It can also be more rewarding when you're dreaming and allowing life to unfold like a magical treasure hunt. See the adventure around you. It's there! While you're looking around you to see the next unfolding mystery, here are some powerful words by Amanda Bradley that have guided me for the past 23+ years and reminded me to live with hope while cultivating the dream in my heart. I hope they inspire you as much as they have inspired me.

    Always Have a Dream

    Forget about the days when it's been cloudy,
    but don't forget your hours in the sun.

    Forget about the times you've been defeated,
    but don't forget the victories you've won.

    Forget about mistakes you can't change now,
    but don't forget the lessons that you've learned.

    Forget about misfortunes you've encountered,
    but don't forget the times your luck has turned.

    Forget about the days when you've been lonely,
    but don't forget the friendly smiles you've seen.

    Forget about the plans that didn't seem to work out right,
    but don't forget to always have a dream.

    -Amanda Bradley
    (Thank you, Amanda!)


    Fast Facts About Depression

    >Depression has a higher diagnosed rate among women than men (although men have higher rates of psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, alcoholism, drug addiction, and autism)

    >Depression may be more obvious in women because stress hormones and estrogen combine to increase anxiety and depression, while testosterone does the opposite

    >Depression affects blood pressure, blood clotting, the immune system and is a risk-factor for coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke (which are seen in younger ages and higher rates of men than women)

    >Loss of a parent in childhood and low-self-esteem are linked with depression in men

    >Children of a depressed parent were found to have a 50% increased risk for depression and a 5 times higher rate of cardiovascular disease

    >90% of the studies on anti-depressants are funded by pharmaceutical companies

    >1/3 to 1/2 of depressed patients that see a primary care physician are not accurately diagnosed

    >Sexual side-effects of SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can decrease over time, or can be aided through the addition of a second medication, or possibly treated via switching to a different type of antidepressant like bupropion

    Source: Harvard Medical School bulletin

    Resources:
    Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance

    National Institute of Mental Health


    5 Life Tasks for Achieving Quality of Life

    Clients often ask me how long it will take to resolve whatever issue that's impacting them at the moment. While I offer specific steps and a manageable "program" to address their particular situation, the reality is it's up to them. It's highly dependent on the type of changes they are willing to make. Are they only making superficial modifications or are they going deeper and allowing some genuine transformation to occur at the soul-level? (We refer to this as first-order and second-order changes--you need both.) Nonetheless, our brains tend to be wired to initially seek a Cliff's Notes version of healing. To satisfy that mental hunger, here are 5 life tasks put forth by Witmer & Sweeney (92) that reveal what needs to be accomplished to attain wellness and quality of life.

    Life Task #1-SPIRITUALITY
    Spirituality addresses the meaning or "breath of life" for people and may have a religious connection for some, but not all people. It is finding oneness, embracing the inner life, having a purpose, optimism, and value.

    Life Task #2-SELF-REGULATION
    This component is at the heart of many therapies. It is taking care of oneself and being able to have emotional responsiveness while having self-control. It also involves self-worth, realistic beliefs, spontaneity, intellectual stimulation, problem-solving and creativity, sense of humor, fitness & health.

    Life Task #3-WORK
    Work can be our vocation and involve our identity. It's how we choose to interact with the world. It is a life-span task (always evolving) and has measurable psychological, economic and social benefits.

    Life Task #4-FRIENDSHIP
    A basic need is a sense of belonging. This task relates to that need with social interest and connectedness, social support, health and interpersonal relationships.

    Life Task #5-LOVE
    Love-that creative fire inside the heart that inspires music, poetry and many good feelings. This task, however, involves more than the initial rush of infatuation. It is the deeper love that involves intimacy, trust, cooperation, and genuine commitment.


    Understanding Depression

    Clinical depression has been reported to affect 19 million Americans each year. Those are the numbers we know. Other research has indicated that only half of the people with depression seek help. Of those seeking help, approximately 74% are reported to see a primary care physician instead of a mental health professional. Depression was improved for about 80% of those who sought treatment. The bottom line is that a whole lot more people can receive help IF they seek it.

    It's not always biological...
    The cause for clinical depression can vary, as documented causes include Genetics and Biology, Situational (divorce, financial problems, job loss, loss of a loved one), Chronic (chronic abuse, discrimination due to gender, ethnicity, physical differences and abilities), Co-occurrence (co-occurring with other medical conditions such as post-partum depression after giving birth, lifelong illness or terminal disease), Side-effects (from other medications), Cognitive (negative thinking patterns and rigid belief systems), and Co-Morbidity (exists with other conditions like Personality Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).

    Best treatment...
    Because depression can be instigated from a number of causes (along with depression's ability to create a number of consequences in one's life such as difficult relationships, potential job loss, decreased self-esteem, etc.), the best treatment includes a mix of medication and psychotherapy and lifestyle/environmental changes. Ideally, one will find a therapist that serves as a kind of case manager that works in conjunction with a psychiatrist and/or primary care physician. Some of the best therapists take a holistic approach and can help you with basics like communication skills, financial responsibility and career counseling to deeper issues from family stress, thought patterns, and trauma and grief recovery.

    Depression Symptoms...
    First, there is probably something to investiagte if you're wondering about depression in yourself or someone else. Here's a list of symptoms you can explore, but talk it out with a professional for the best diagnosis.
    * Changes in appetite or sleep (either more or less of each)
    * Changes in cognition and activity (memory, speech, physical activity)
    * Decrease in energy
    * Loss of enthusiasm for activities, daily routines
    * Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
    * Difficulty thinking, making decisions or concentrating
    * Recurrent thoughts of death or thoughts about suicide (esp. plans or attempts)

    Having three or more of these symptoms is a cause for concern. Any recurrent thoughts about suicide or death is an urgent call to seek help. Talk to a professional about your symptoms and their length of time...especially if you've noticed an increase in any or all of your symptoms.

    For more information about depression, check out Mental Health America. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention line at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).


    When Expectations & Beliefs Collide

    When working with clients, I find that there’s one lowest common denominator to many of the struggles they are experiencing. Yet, oftentimes, connecting to that underlying influencer is not a short, direct route. Rather it’s a meandering discovery that conjures up past memories, reflections, disbelief, fear, intrigue and a host of other reactions that seem almost nonsensical. Sometimes, it feels like a complete waste of time to even look for a “cause” of some struggle when forgetting about it provides the greatest sense of relief. That is, if you can forget about it. Usually, it teases and cajoles you into waking up. That unsettled, discontented feeling lingers no matter how much joy surrounds you, no matter how fast you run, no matter how many distractions and self-indulgences you seek.

    It’s complex and unnerving, so how could I dare suggest something as simple as a lowest common denominator? What is it?? My experience (personal and professional) reveals that a conflict between one’s expectations and one’s belief system lies at the heart of most struggles. Ahh, but it’s not that simple. We are born into this world and our respective cultures inheriting years (centuries of generations) of conditioning to believe and behave in a million ways we’ve never examined. We may feel liberal on the surface but find we have deep-seated, culturally-enforced rigid beliefs that create the struggle.

    Think about how you view struggling. Deep down, do you believe that struggling (or suffering) makes you a better person? For example, do you expect not to suffer but inwardly believe that you need to suffer in order to be loved, saved, and okay with yourself? How about love. Do you expect love but inadvertently inhibit it by taking it for granted or demanding something of it? Work? Do you expect to see yourself as separate from your work while allowing it to actually define your identity (feeling shame if it’s not good enough or proud if it brings you lots of wealth)? These questions and many more begin to identify your surface self and your unconscious “conditioned” self. Aligning the two creates congruence and harmony. So, perhaps you can allow the struggles to provide you the opportunity to learn about those underlying conflicts.

    While you’re at it, try reading some inspirational and thought-provoking novels that reinforce some of the joys and struggles, hope and fears you’re experiencing along your journey. Check out authors like, best-selling and award-winning Paulo Coelho or Mitch Albom.


    When Sacrificing for Career & Children Hurts

    When reading the news, I can always count on seeing a story that revisits some enduring debate. What diet is truly healthy? How much television is okay for children? Should Mom or Dad quit their jobs and stay home to raise the kids? The latest instigator to the last question is Leslie Bennetts, author of "The Feminine Mistake."

    Bennetts asserts that leaving your job (regardless of gender) may hurt your career in the long run...and thus your family. One of the increasingly common scenarios she points to is when a middle-aged stay-at-home woman (or man) finds herself (or himself) divorced and suffering from decreased income potential that tends to result from a career hiatus taken to raise the kids.

    What's interesting (and less discussed) is the parallel situation when a man (or woman) has dedicated his/her career to a company (sacrificing time with family, taking on health risks from chronic stress, making necessary moves for the job, etc.) and then gets laid off. A similar shock-grief-identity crisis takes place that can also impact income potential.

    The reality is that men and women in both scenarios are dealing with valid dependency and identity issues that are made worse by their sacrifices. The real solution is getting congruent with one's values, having a sense of self that's outside of marriage, career and parenthood, and then making an investment of time and energy in each aspect of one's life--self, family, career, community...and spirit. My personal view is that it's a human mistake when any of these areas in our lives are sacrificed. We are role models for our children and what are we ultimately teaching them when we perpetuate the work OR family myth? It's about both work AND family (with self in tact). Perhaps more workplaces would provide better flex time if we, as a culture, embraced a commitment to work AND family AND self and stopped expecting the old paradigm of one breadwinner and one caretaker.


    Stop, Drop, Roll & Reassure

    One of the biggest causes for relationship distress and an upset mood stems from our very own thoughts. We truly create our reality. Often the troublesome thought processes are so subtle and automatic that we never see the snowball forming until it's too late. We just see ourselves react in anger, judgment, accusation, disgust, panic, sadness and/or despair. Sadly, repeated forms of the same snowball formation (where one subtle thought leads to another and another until it forms an intense reaction) creates neural pathways in the brain. It then becomes easier and easier to jump to the same conclusion when presented with a situation or person (hence, the term "trigger"). Here's a simple example. You walk in a classroom and discover there's a test that day. You're not prepared. You begin to have thoughts that you're going to fail. You're beating yourself up for not being prepared and forgetting there's an exam. You continue this until you're absolutely terrified and frozen when the exam touches your desk. You're so scared that you don't even remember to put your name on the exam, let alone remembering the answers to the simple questions. We all have the ability to react like this in a variety of situations...especially with our loved ones. So, what to do? Just as you would if you caught on fire (Stop, Drop & Roll), STOP your snowball, DROP the negative and punishing self-talk from your mind, and ROLL with the situation via a positive perspective. Lastly, REASSURE yourself. STOP, DROP, ROLL & REASSURE...


    5 Ways Out of Anxiety

    Want a quick cure for anxiety? Focus on the here and now. Anxiety usually arises when you leave the moment. Maybe you're having some fear about the future. You may also have flooding thoughts from the past. The upside is that anxiety can be a signal for you to make a change, but making that change in an anxious state of mind isn't always the wisest course of action. Moreover, you may feel just plain stuck and overwhelmed. So again, get back into the here and now. It'll clear your mind, leading to better decision-making. How do you get into the here and now you ask? Ahhh, let your five senses lead the way--taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing. Take a deep breath and try this experiment. Swallow (even better with a sip of water) and notice the taste. Feel your skin by touching a soft fabric. Notice your surroundings and count the number of colors around you (try it now--look--I just counted 16 colors in one corner). Finally, listen to the noises around you (the heating fan is blowing above me and the sound of the keys is almost melodic, okay, maybe cacophonic). Try this often and let your senses provide you with a relaxing vacation from your anxious thoughts. (We'll talk about more about those thoughts next time...) Peace.


    Easing Pain through Balance

    The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) lists 15 million adults as impacted by major depression each year. Treating depression is a serious matter, especially because it is so isolating for the person experiencing it. It's also a paradox because it tends to bubble up from unfelt and denied pain. Often the pain stems from assaults to one's self-worth. Where do you derive your sense of self-worth? Is it from an intimate relationship? Your career? Your children's success? The amount of money in your bank account (high and low)? Your spirituality? This is where I urge you make a self-assessment. Pay attention to the influences that affect your self-esteem. Are they balanced or are all your eggs in one basket? I've seen people fall apart when they've lost a relationship or a job. Their sense of self was completely tied to that one aspect and they didn't know who they were anymore. It's a wake-up call for growth, but make a self-assessment even if you're not experiencing that devastation right now. Divvy up your self-esteem eggs into many baskets. Place the most in your own basket. That's balance.


    De-stressing Your December

    The last month of 2006 has arrived and one cannot ignore the holidays and New Year's Eve accompanying it. Often portrayed as a joyous time, the season seems to trigger sadness and grief for many. Undoubtedly stress is high. Therefore this month's posts will be dedicated to discussing methods for de-stressing your December. This month can be high for heart attacks, so check out these heart warning signs by the American Heart Association. For complete heart disease and stroke statistics, check out their 2006 report. While suicide is not highest during this time of year (it's actually highest in the spring), it's still a serious issue. Check out the Center for Disease Control's suicide fact sheet. Further posts will expand on tips for de-stressing, but remember my 4 S's for now--Self-Express (talk, journal, art), Self-Physical-Care (eat healthy, drink water, avoid drugs and numbing self with alcohol, get plenty of sleep, exercise), Self-Emotional-Care (honor your feelings, love yourself and quiet the inner critical voice, allow laughter, find forgiveness, cultivate an attitude of appreciation) and Social Support (accept help from friends, group members, neighbors, community members, support groups, church members, etc.). Last thing, take December (and life!) day by day...