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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.

 


Check Out My Posts on Psychology Today

I realize I've neglected my blog for a couple of months. I'm sorry to anyone that has missed new content. I just posted a piece on tips for managing a listserv (see below) and I promise to add more of my usual material on various counseling and psychology topics. To let you know, I'll also be focusing on evolution trends to correspond with my new venture, Keys to Evolution. If you have any requests for content, please don't hesitate to contact me at Kimberly@EncompassWF.com.

If you're wondering what you're missing on my Psychology Today blog, entitled "Counseling Keys," here's a peek. Please visit it and be sure to check back here soon. Thanks and Happy 2011!

Children’s Expectations: What Your Child Would Tell You if They Could

President Barack Obama says to live up to our children's expectations. Learn the top three myths about children and what they really expect--if they could tell you.

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December 13, 2010

In Defense of Marriage

 

Examining why 50% of people stay married and what they get out of their lifetime commitment.

Read More

 

 

 


Tips for Managing your Listserve and Facilitating Clear Communication

Do you belong to a listserv that has gotten out of hand? Do people take things personally and attack? Are misunderstandings abundant? Life and human to human communication can be like that. However, it seems to get worse in email as that critical body language that conveys up to 85% of our communication is absent. Thus, people misinterpret messages. Add groupthink on top of that and it’s no wonder listserves can be a hot bed for contention. To curb contention and increase productive teamwork, here are a few tips to making your listserv communication clearer and smother.

 >    State purpose of listserv clearly and succinctly in a way that provides an umbrella framework for communication parameters. This purpose statement can be set up as an automatic “signature” that is displayed on the bottom of each reply to reinforce and remind listserv members to make appropriate posts according to the purpose. (e.g. The XYZ listserv is to discuss research, trends, and provide collegial assistance and support to counseling professionals on common practices, procedures, and ethics in counseling along with typical client, classroom and curriculum support.)

 >    Set-up listserv guidelines (a list of do’s and don’ts) that can be followed by the listserv owner and must be agreed upon before a member can join. This serves as a reminder of what is allowed and not allowed and can be referred to by the listserv owner when mediating a dispute or removing someone from the listserv. Typical guidelines can include items like use of language, political and commercial discussion bans, directives to personal disputes offline, privacy of member information, and references/limitation to Constitutional rights.

 >    Listserv owners strengthen group communication when they act neutral in disputes. When disputes arise on a listserv, simply remind members to take it offline before it gets out of control and then urge them to respond to listserv with any solutions. This serves as a template for future conflict resolutions. It is also beneficial if the listserv owner does not jump in to discuss the issue, but only serve as a facilitator. This aids the listserv owner’s credibility and neutrality, much like the role of a presiding office in a meeting as described in “Robert’s Rules of Order.”

>    For further ideas on member communication, seek out the organization’s by-laws, “Robert’s Rules of Order,” or even the U. S. Bill of Rights. Remember, however, that keeping guidelines simple and flexible is always the best rule of thumb to elicit the beneficial effects of honest and open communication. Also, keep in mind that even a little conflict can serve a purpose and lead to enhanced changes and learning opportunities for members.

 


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/.

 


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

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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.


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

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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.)


The Answer to the One-Minute Personality Assessment (Goof or Nerd?)

There are a lot of goofs out there! At least that’s what people shared in their emails in response to my last post (Would you rather be a goof or a nerd?). 


This question first came up when I was conversing with the chairman of the board of my old company and teasingly called him a goof. My friend and I said that to each other so often that the “You’re a goof” comment slipped out of my mouth almost by accident. However, the usual smile that accompanied the comment didn’t appear. 

Instead, he shot me an incredulous stare as if I had given the worst blow a person could give and retorted, “A goof??”

 I stammered for a second and attempted a little humor with my reply, “Well, would you rather be a goof or a nerd?” 

He straightened his jacket, cleared his throat, and then proudly stated “A nerd of course!” 

“Oh” I mumbled and didn’t pursue it any further. 

After that, I began quizzing people everywhere. The president of the firm preferred to be a goof. A top salesman preferred to be a goof. A researcher clearly wanted to be a nerd. Another senior executive absolutely preferred to be a nerd. Hmm, I began detecting a pattern. Was it sense of humor? Extroversion? The degree to which one took themselves seriously? 

Then I hit my first anomaly. A life of the party, funny, witty, gregarious, top performer wanted to be a nerd. It didn’t make sense. Everything fit perfectly with him being a goof. After some discussion, he said that he felt like a goof but wanted to be a nerd. 

Ohhh. Different subtleties exist with my new assessment. 

Now, I’ve come full circle. Life is complex and it’s difficult to lump people into a category of personality types, let alone an over-simplistic dichotomy. Having said that, I realize now that the best answer is a both/and, not an either/or. Thus, as my good friend, Reid Walley, stated in his comment, we are all probably a little bit of nerd and a little bit of goof—and we’re better for it that way. 

Most people can behave very goofy at times and can be quite nerdy at other times. It’s a good thing to be that way. Balance doesn’t exist in either extreme. For instance, if you are just a nerd, you might never enjoy the humor and light side of life. Or, if you are only a goof, you could miss out on the satisfaction gained from intellectualism and serious life issues. The answer to growth is in finding balance between the extremes. Therefore, if you find yourself answering in one definitive category, you might want to try cultivating the other side of yourself to stay in balance. Try being a goofy nerd or nerdy goof and feel good about it. The shift can be empowering.

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.

 


Managing Your Net Rep

Do you know your Net Rep? It’s that little impression that comes up when someone searches your name in Google or Yahoo. Advertisers call it brand image and work hard to give a good impression or feeling of a product they want to sell. Your Net Rep (Internet Reputation) gives a similar impression and feeling about you. But it can be positive or negative, depending on how you’ve managed it and IF you’ve managed it.

 

First, how does a Net Rep get built in the first place? With the widespread usage of the World Wide Web, people across the globe have used the Internet to join social networking sites (like LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Plaxo Pulse and more). They have posted their résumés on various job search sites. They have joined special interest networking group sites (such as photography groups, hiking groups, and other network groups centered around various hobbies). People also ask questions and post responses to other inquiries on topic-related sites (think medical support groups, diet groups, book reviews, movie reviews, etc. where some, but not all are anonymous postings). Every time a posting or profile is made, Google and other search engines’ spiders take note. The more your name is posted on various sites, the higher your search engine results are going to be. That means everything you post on the Internet paints a picture about you and all of the pieces of that picture will be seen by one simple search on a search engine.

 

Marketers know the power of Net Rep building and purposely try to place a product or client’s name all over the World Wide Web in strategically advantageous places. You can do the same, but first you need to figure out what your existing Net Rep reveals. To do this, reexamine the content on your social networking sites from the prespective of a boss, employee, or client. Consider what your information reveals about you and how it may impact your professional reputation and credibility. 

 

An example of how social networking content can backfire on someone is by using sites for dating searches. A senior executive was borderline harassing employees and potential employees through public sites. The behavior was observed by investors and became an issue for the company, along with almost costing the executive’s job.

 

One more cautionary note is that privacy locks on your sites do not always work. Member profiles still show up on “friends” and group lists along with any comments that have been made on other people’s sites. Basically, a trail of Internet bread crumbs leads anyone back to a site that is even marked private, so be cautious about the friends you accept and the posts you make.

 

The upside is that you can use the Internet bread crumbs in your favor by posting positive material that reinforces the image you want to convey. People like to see the humanity behind a person’s name, so posting favorite quotes, movies, and philosophical views can be positive if that’s the image you want to convey—especially when it’s congruent with your inner self. Sharing a personal story through your site profiles and revealing what you care about can go a long way. Even microblogging updates about what you are doing right now can enhance your Net Rep as long as they are true and not too abundant (e.g. Preparing for marathon to help abused children; Finishing grant proposal for mental health study on career mobility; Attending professional economic conference; Going on hike and smelling the flowers.).

 

Managing a Net Rep can be a lot like tending a garden. Plant good and healthy seeds and maintain upkeep. Revisit sites you’ve joined and keep the content positive. If people have posted negative things about you, make positive public comments or delete the profile if you’re getting harassed. You can also combat a negative posting through increased positive postings by colleagues and friends. Ask for public referrals, recommendations, and testimonials. Be professional and courteous with all of your postings—even in listserves. People across the world are watching, so communicate on the Internet with caution and wisdom.


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.

Power Struggles in the Hood

When the Racheal Ray show asked me to be one of their experts on an upcoming segment about neighborhood conflicts, I confess I panicked a little. Trying to solve feuding neighbor issues can be a little like trying to tame wild cats. Attempting to do this on national television would surely undermine any credibility I had achieved. At least that was my fear. To my relief, the show was cancelled and I helped them on another issue. Still, I was asked to let them know if I came across any feuding neighbors for future segments. I didn’t have any candidates for them. But wouldn’t you know that life has a funny way of providing ironies. I have watched turmoil grow in my neighborhood over the past year. In the past three days alone, about two hundred emails have been posted on our neighborhood listserve. The issue? Traffic. That’s the surface issue that has ignited a bunch of personality clashes and power struggles. This is even more ironic, because I just finished writing and launching my new eBook on power struggles (“Ten Keys for Staying Empowered in a Power Struggle”). But alas, I am just a neighbor in the neighborhood. I don’t have a neutral voice, so the nuggets of communication suggestions that I could share may not have the same effect. Still, I will try my best to communicate in a manner that promotes reconciliation and peace. To any of my neighbors that read this blog, please feel free to check out a copy of my eBook and consider that maybe everyone does want a safe neighborhood with calm traffic. Maybe people are being defensive with each other and the more offensive you get, the more defensive they’ll get. Guess that’s why Grandma always said “you can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.”

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.

    Motivation

    363834a_b~Freshly-Hatched-Baby-Chick-with-Broken-Egg-Posters Family psychotherapists have long known that a person will underfunction if the other person overfunctions. The same holds true in business. To illustrate, did you know you would kill a baby chick if you helped it crack its shell while it was trying to break free? The baby chick needs the muscle development from cracking its shell to survive and thrive in the world. Life experience and failures create that same thriving muscle in humans. Kids need to be able to fall in order to learn. Employees need to be free to fail in order to succeed. Simply put, failure leads to success.
    If you’re experiencing a little failure right now, take comfort that goodness can come out of it. Hang in there and keep cracking that shell because there’s an exciting world on the other side.
    If you’re watching someone failing and feeling a little anxious because you want to help them out of their struggle, find strength in knowing they might just be developing some great success muscles without your intervention. However, you can offer them your support, caring and then cheer them on when they succeed.

    Benefits of "Back to School" Buzz

    School bus 2 What is it about going back to school that creates so much excitement in the air? Is it the new school supplies? New clothes? New school year? New teachers? New classes? New opportunity to start over, make new friends, learn new things, and improve one’s grade point average? Or is that everything is simply NEW?
    If you feel like you’ve been in a rut, take a lesson from the students and make a NEW start in your life. Every day is an opportunity to start over. Look for the new and feel the excitement that life is truly pregnant with opportunity and hidden surprises. Take a new route to work. Try something different on the menu from your lunch spot. Smile and say hello to a stranger. Look around and take note of the changes and let them inspire adaptations in your own soul.
    If you feel like you’re suffering from too much change, seek the comfort from tradition. Think of favorite routines from the past and rekindle them. Or start new traditions. Monday morning breakfast treats. Tuesday after work walks. Wednesday afternoon tea break. Thursday massage. The key is to partake in fun little rituals that can provide comfort, routine and provide you with a sense of security because you can count of their return.
    Of course, you know my preference for the BOTH-AND in life if you’re a long-time blog reader. The best formula we can learn from that “Back to School” buzz involves BOTH cultivating new activities and discoveries in life AND obtaining comfort from the rich recurring rituals that feed our soul.

    Stop Unconscious Prejudices from Destroying Your Relationships, Business & the World

    Discrimination, racism and intolerance are a lot like holding a grudge. The grudge-holder remains steadfast in their conviction and refuses to understand another point of view or to engage in any type of connection. But what about the stealth grudge-holder? You know--the person that CLAIMS they're not upset but continues to give little jabs anyway.

    Multicultural counselors have a name for stealth forms of discrimination. They call it microaggressions and it's very real and quite toxic. As you'd imagine, it's one thing when someone you love or care about is still stewing about an incident while claiming they are over it, but it's a whole other thing when your boss or Chairman of the Board is launching gestures and double-talk at you that are loaded with the equivalent annihilation power of the atomic bomb. Yet you're in a double-bind because nothing has really been said, so you can't prove the existence of the passive-aggressive poison in the room. Worse, the person responsible for such behavior is probably just as unaware. Hence, "micro"aggressions.

    Numerous studies have been conducted to reveal how oblivious people are to their prejudices. Perhaps you'll recall the "Candid Camera" episode that showed a woman walking down a street with a purse on her arm as several staged teenagers walked passed her. The teenagers were culturally different but dressed in identical clothes. As you might guess (even though the woman claimed not to be "prejudiced"), the woman placed the purse on her opposite shoulder when she saw the Black and Latino teenagers approaching. Sandra Bullock does a good job portraying a similar scene in the excellent, make-you-think movie "Crash."

    So, what can you do to become more aware of your own unconscious prejudices in order to stop perpetuating microaggressions? First, take a moment to really ask yourself some questions--deeply ask yourself. For instance, how do you feel about people of color, people of other religious views, people of different sexual preferences and identities? How do you feel about intermixed relationships? How can you identify with the experiences and challenges facing differing groups of people?

    If you came up with some prejudices, here’s something to consider. A lot of people are talking about the law of attraction--the idea that what you believe and think will be manifested. This is the basis of the film, "The Secret." Well, if the law of attraction is real (in sports psychology it works--you visualize the goal and see yourself completing it), and it's true that many of our prejudices are unconscious (which has been validated through enormous amounts of research), wouldn't it be valuable to unlock our prejudices and change them so that we can stop manifesting in others the very behaviors we fear?



    Are You TOO Honest? Two Golden Rules for Communicating with Respect

    My father used to say "Honesty is the best policy." Of course he would say that as a way to elicit some confession out of me (i.e. Okay, "I" broke the glass.). He'd then couple it with one of his other favorite expressions, "The truth always comes out." These beliefs left me rather neurotic and quite confessional: "Dad, I need to let you know that I went to a party instead of the movies and I was home 15 minutes after my curfew." However, this unbridled truth-telling took a turn and slapped me in the face as I got older.

    Some people would call me "direct" while others began to withdrawal. As a manager and employee and human being interacting in a world of other humans, I began to realize that there was a limitation to sharing my truth. Worse, I was inadvertently offending people and ruining my chances of adequately communicating with them if I was TOO honest. I couldn't really tell people "I can't get a word in if you keep talking" and expect them to listen to me after that. I also couldn't get frustrated and declare "Would you please speak up and say what you're thinking?!" to someone that wasn't participating in a discussion.

    The reality is that people can be like other countries--we need to approach them by appreciating their differences, learning their language and their culture (personality) while enjoying our vacation (interaction) with them. Here are two golden rules for communicating appropriately with people without blowing it and telling them why you can't communicate with them.

    Golden Respect Rule #1 If someone is quiet and withdrawn, give them more space and allow for longer pauses to let them articulate their thoughts. RESIST THE URGE TO SAY WHAT THEY ARE THINKING (You're most likely wrong!).

    Golden Respect Rule #2 If you're communicating with a long-winded talker and you want to flee, RESIST THE URGE TO SHUT THEM UP. Instead, try to acknowledge what you've heard them say or how they feel and then you can let them know you're a bit short on time (LONG-WINDED TALKERS STOP TALKING IF THEY FELT HEARD, BUT TALK MORE OR EVEN ATTACK IF THEY FEEL BRUSHED OFF).



    6 Keys to Maintaining & Repairing Relationships

    Our identity and self-worth is formed by the dialogues we share in our relationship circles. People give us meaning. They reinforce our value. That's why discrimination and unhealthy relationships are so destructive to our physical, psychic & spiritual well-being. As John Donne said, "no man is an island." At the end of the day, we are responsible for how we connect to others. Our interactions with people are circular which means how someone behaves can impact our response to them which in turn impacts their response back to us, etc. It also means that we have the power (and responsibility) to break the cycle by responding differently. Here are 6 keys to maintaining and repairing relationships.

    -Listen (To truly listen means that you must suspend your thoughts and responses while the other person is sharing...the amazing paradox is that REAL listening begets real listening from the other person.)

    -Check your body (Sometimes our neurological memory and primal brain takes over when we feel threatened and makes our evolved brain think the target of our distress is the other person...we can control this emotional hijacking by focusing on a bodily sensation and separating the sensation from the dialogue with the other person...another paradox, but it works.)

    -Respect time-outs (A general response to the physiological distress is to walk away or take a time-out...while this can create feelings of abandonment in one person, try to hang in there and self-soothe until the person is ready to rationally discuss the situation and be emotionally present.)

    -Repair as soon as possible (The longer the time out, the easier it is to sweep the matter under the rug. Resist this destructive temptation! Discuss and LISTEN to each other's side, providing empathy, validation and reassurance.)

    -Keep healthy boundaries (Some people are too narcissistic or psychically wounded to be emotionally available. They will never be able to provide the kind of emotional empathy needed for a healthy relationship. In these cases, love from afar. Listen when you have to and offer your empathy without turning it into a one-way relationship. Maintain a healthy distance and protect your boundaries.)

    -Stay connected (Human contact and relationships are essential needs. Stay connected with people. Cherish your relationships. Open up, share and grow with people. Remember success means nothing unless you have loved ones to share it with.)

    (c) 2008 Kimberly Key


    Studies Reveal Differences in Artists & Engineers, Republicans & Democrats

    My first career was in engineering (environmental), so I was particularly interested in a recent study published in The Career Development Quarterly that described thinking style differences of artists and engineers. Now, while you might immediately react with a "Duh! Of course artists and engineers are different!," look a little more closely at these differences and notice how one could have difficulties if they ended up in the wrong field.

    First, artists and engineers have high visual-spatial abilities in common, so it could be easy to translate that skill into a more lucrative field (e.g. a variety of engineering jobs...not to mention that the U.S.A. needs more scientists and engineers). But this is where the commonality stops.

    Engineers, as the study confirmed, think linearly and hierarchically and prefer a highly prioritized thinking style. Engineers also do extraordinarily well in carrying out the plans of others. (task-driven, follow the rules...in order).

    Artists, on the other hand, did better without rules and input from others. They also displayed more emotionality, introspection, and had higher aesthetic interests.

    What are the potential dangers if one thinking style ended up in a different thinking-style field? If an engineer style were in an art field, they could be branded as "in of the box" (uncreative) and could flounder if not given a strict set of rules to follow. The artist style in an engineering field could be perceived as difficult to work with and too emotional. Over time, the employee's confidence and self worth could decline if the labels are introjected (accepted and reinforced through negative self-talk). Ideally, organizations could grow to embrace both styles and value the differences of each—which could lead to improved products and output, but generally one style dominates organizational culture and flow.


    EEGs of Democrats & Republicans
    Interestingly, artists and engineers weren't the only group to be found with differences. A study published in Nature Neuroscience revealed neural activity differences in Republicans and Democrats. Electroencephalographs (EEGs) were performed while study participants engaged in a Go/No-Go decision task in an effort to measure their "conflict monitoring." EEGs revealed that liberals had a higher tolerance for ambiguity (able to shift gears/adapt to quick changes) while conservatives displayed more structure and consistency (persistence).


    The #1 Relationship Tool

    Dale Carnegie was brilliant. In 1935, he published the international best-seller, “How to Win Friends & Influence People.” The book is filled with golden nuggets about how to connect with others. He emphasizes that people must be “sincere”, “genuine”, engage in “honest appreciation”, “show respect” and “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.” He is essentially teaching empathy to people, but appeals to their egos with a punchy title that sells power. Would it have been as successful if it were titled, “How to Listen & Care About People”?

    Perhaps Carnegie’s title was so successful because it addresses a human fundamental need—to be understood. If a person can “win” a friend, then that friend might understand them. The chances increase exponentially if the friend can be influenced to understand. But, sly Carnegie demonstrates that it is first in understanding the other person that you get the opportunity to be understood. Simply put, people listen better when they feel heard. Moreover, people connect better when they feel felt.

    Feeling felt is a deeper form of communication. UCLA Medical Doctor Daniel Siegel refers to it as collaborative communication in his book, “The Developing Mind.” It occurs when people experience momentary states of alignment. This critical form of preverbal communication is formed in infancy when the infant and caregiver are attuned to each other’s feelings and needs. Siegel points out that adult’s verbal communication can “feel quite empty if it is devoid of the more primary aspects of each person’s internal states.”

    Including primary aspects of your internal state means you must listen AND feel the other person. But how? Start by suspending yourself for a moment. Empty the mind and listen to the other person, but also try to intuitively feel what they are feeling. Part of your brain will be working to understand their perspective based on your mutual experience with each other. You might also take their age, gender, culture, current stress level, emotional state, and environment into consideration. To connect internally, allow your heart and gut to simultaneously sense what the other person is experiencing. Connecting at this deeper level allows you to empathize.

    Remember these are only momentary states of alignment. The other person should take part in doing the same for you. You will also need to take a proper amount of space to allow for self-care and regeneration. But, finding those states of alignment should allow for deeper connection and the greatest feeling ever—being truly understood and felt. It can be excellent for calming someone down, connecting with a loved one, responding to your child, improving morale at work, and increasing your sales. Can ya feel me now?


    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.


    The Greatest Gift I ever Received: 4 Tips for Perfect Gift-Giving

    The holiday season is here and the calendar isn't the only thing reminding us that Christmas is around the corner. There are more coupons and sales catalogs in my mailbox than bills and credit card offers (okay, maybe there's more of those too). The other night a friend announced their horror with going to the mall. It took them a whole hour and half just to get out of the parking lot. We all shuddered. Yes, Christmas is here and, whether you celebrate it or not, you can't seem to escape it anywhere. Amidst all of this hustle and bustle, I began reflecting on gift-giving and defining a formula for picking out the perfect gift for someone. It's subjective, but here's what I came up with for this blog...

    First, I asked myself what was the greatest gift I ever received? A smile crept over my face as I recalled several fond gifts through the years. One was a book given to me by my parents when I was young. It was "Fifty Years of the Movies." I was an old movie buff and the gift made my soul sing. How did they know? I didn't even know to ask for such a thing. Another gift was a long white coat that I had seen in a store window. It wasn't even a special occasion. The giver just remembered how I admired it. Another was a surf board on Christmas morning a few years ago. I had no idea that I would get it and I almost fainted when I saw it. I LOVE the ocean and TRYING to surf. It was gorgeous and I squealed for joy (literally!). But my most favorite of all are the hand-written notes and handmade cards from my daughter. I have kept every one of them she ever made. I cherish her handwriting (especially watching how it has changed as she's grown up) and her most loving words. Yes, I even cry with joy. So, do these recollections create a formula? I think so.

    My parents noticed my interests (even before I could define them...I didn't even realized that I drawn to old movies). They saw my soul and selected something that I would like. The bonus is they paid attention to me and my interests. It wasn't a situation where I had to tell them what I like. Point #1: Get something that the person has a special interest in or is drawn toward.

    The second memory was about my white coat. I saw it in a window and loved it. It wasn't even a special occasion. Point #2: Select items that the person noticed...and don't be afraid to share surprises randomly!

    The third point relates to the surf board. Am I a good surfer? NO. In fact, if someone was going to give me something I was "good" at, I'd get walking shoes and silverware for eating (practical, but boring). Point #3: Get them what they want to learn to do, not just what they're currently good at doing.

    The last memory--my favorite--is from my daughter. She is the joy of my life. She's also my purpose. Anything she gives me is great because it's from her. She's also an EXCELLENT gift-giver because she knows all of these points. Point #4: Keep tending to those special relationships in your life because those are the gifts that keep on giving!

    Happy Holidays to all!


    The #1 Reason Relationships Succeed

    The hidden secret to building a good relationship with anyone (children, co-workers and loved ones) is listening. Hence the expression: "You're made with two ears and one mouth for a reason." However, in our fast-paced, technology-supported lives, real listening has become a lost art. It also explains why so many people feel hurt and defensive. People don’t feel heard and understood which can cause even simple communication to disrupt into a full-blown battle...or prolonged silence. We are all guilty of poor listening skills from time to time--interrupting, assuming what someone really means, or zoning out altogether when someone else is speaking--but we can do something about it and improve our relations with people. The key is to make a genuine connection with someone and really focus on what the other person is saying. Notice their facial expressions and listen for their feelings. You’re less apt to interrupt or think about your own response when you’re completely focused on what they’re saying and how they’re feeling. Doing this is called focused listening. I like to think of it as listening with both of your ears and your heart...which might explain why "ear" is in heart.


    4 Psychological Obstacles to Communicating Effectively

    Ever have a conversation not work out? You think you're communicating, but something else takes over and the communication misses. Sometimes it's obvious like a full eruption and other times it's so hidden that you're left with an uneasy feeling wondering "what just happened?" Looking at the basic communications model, the breakdown occurred with the messenger, the message or with the receiver. (Come to think about it, I was always taught that any breakdown in communication was the messenger's responsibility...which does contradict the old "Don't blame the messenger" adage, doesn't it? Another both/and, truth is in the middle situation.) To expound, one of family therapy's legendary founders, Virginia Satir, offers a psychological explanation.

    Satir believed all behavior is communication. She asserted that any breakdown in communication was the result of some discrepancy in the message. Have a look at her list of psychological discrepancies and see if you can relate to the scenarios:

    1.) Inhibition-you have a feeling but couldn't express it (maybe you're angry, but afraid to show the anger so you don't say much...or you're hiding feelings of love while painfully hoping that your loved one will notice your true intentions).
    In this scenario the receiver picks up on the missing part of the message and feels uncomfortable while the messenger also feels the discomfort of not being honest. Net sum=lose, lose

    2.) Repression & Projection-these are psychological terms that express a similar dynamic to the first discrepancy, but in this case the messenger isn't aware of their feelings (yup, it's SUBconscious...and guess what? It happens a lot! After all, how often is hindsight 20-20??) In addition, the messenger projects their repressed feeling onto the other person. (Uhh, this means the messenger sees the subconscious feeling in the other person. So, you might feel angry but view the other person as angry with you. Amazingly enough, this is SO common. Some say all of life is a projection)
    Net sum=lose, confused

    3.) Suppression-okay, another psychological term for describing the same resulting dynamic, but in this instance the messenger feels the message is not allowed. For instance, a son or daughter feels they can't disrepect their parent so they hold back what they feel. Another scenario is that an "unspoken rule" exists that says we don't allow conflict so everyone has to act happy. Unspoken rules are at the heart of many problems.
    Net sum=lose, lose, lose

    4.) Denial-Who hasn't heard of this term? It's when you have a feeling but you're not sharing it because you deny its importance or relevance. (basically same dynamic with slight difference in messenger)
    Net sum=lose, lose

    Of course all of these discrepancies can occur simultaneously for the messenger and the receiver. Consequently, A LOT of communicating is going on in a simple look, a sigh--and in the silence. What can you do to decrease the discrepancies and foster better communicating? Get in touch with those feelings! Figure out where you are and then be honest about it. Maybe the other person will follow your lead. You'd be surprised at how smooth a conversation can go when you open yourself up and are genuine with another person.

    Good luck!


    Tips for Communicating with Technology

    Mobile phones, Voicemails, Emails, Instant messaging, and Short Message Service (SMS or text messaging) provide easy access to people. The downside is that there is an expectation of immediate feedback. The communicator is forced to wait for a response. When no feedback is reciprocated, psychologically some people begin to feel ignored or rejected. They may respond in a number of ways—demanding, sulking, angry, withdrawn and distant—that, in reality, are motivated by the underlying fear of being ignored and rejected (or angry if the lack of response is sabotaging something important).

    This is a normal dynamic that unfolds in any communication. Communicator sends a message (i.e., speaks) and receiver provides feedback to communicator (i.e. speaks back or nods) within an appropriate time frame (which happens in seconds face to face). But the problem with technology-aided communication is that there is no generally accepted rule for appropriate response time. We simply haven’t developed agreed-upon etiquette for this new form of communication.

    In the older days, before answering machines, people were informed to let the phone ring 10 times before hanging up. Any more or less would be rude. There were also strict rules about not calling people during dinner hours. These rules of etiquette and others were promoted in schools, neighborhoods, communities, businesses, etc. and everyone seemed to grasp these social mores. The rapid development of technology hasn’t provided time to develop new norms, so miscommunication and misunderstandings have increased alongside the technological advancements.

    What can you do? Develop norms in your communication sphere. Let the people you communicate with know how you communicate. Lay some ground rules, like informing them when you check emails and how late they can expect a response. Let them know what’s on your plate. For instance, are you a student that will not be available during finals week? Are you in a business that requires you to submit shareholder reports every quarter and tend to be unreachable during those times? Perhaps you’re an attorney and inaccessible when going to court. Or you’re a new parent with a different sleep schedule because you’re taking care of an infant. We all experience time periods that require uninterrupted attention and it impacts our ability to be responsive. Letting people know about your personal “time zone” will help them to be less intrusive and more supportive during those times.

    Some methods for announcing how your personal time zone works can be personal communication, email notices and automated replies, voice mail greetings, and announcements through social networking sites like MySpace or micro-blogging services like Twitter. However you do it, communicating about your preferred communication method, availability and general response time will alleviate a lot of frustration for you and your social sphere. The flip side is remembering that the person you’re waiting to hear back from is probably experiencing some demands in their own time zone, so relax and be patient because it’s probably not personal.