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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.


Rebooting Psychology & Health Blog

I started this blog almost a decade ago to provide information to clients that reinforced some of the things we were working on in therapy and to give general guidance on many of life's topics. As a natural health practitioner, I have shared some posts on natural rememdies. Of course, my research and thoughts continue to evolve in this area. As a professional blogger for Psychology Today, I have seriously neglected my own blog and would like to rectify that...especially in today's turbulent poltical times. Please know this is a place for healing - for all people from all walks of life. 

If you want to read any posts on Psychology Today, you can visit www.psychologytoday.com/blog/counseling-keys. Post there include the First Amendment, Women in Leadership, Nine Types of Love, and Child Abuse to name a few. More will be posted here, so thank you for reading and checking back.


Discover Your Personal Vitamin Rx

It’s difficult to write about natural remedies without addressing a core issue that leads to so many health problems—improper nutrition.

 

Much of the popular American fare (i.e., processed sugary snacks in a box like meal replacement bars, cereal, pop tarts, etc., and fast food burgers and fries) is lacking in necessary vitamins and minerals. Consequently, people tend to eat more in the body’s desperation to obtain nutrients.

 

The problem: More food equals more calorie consumption which can lead to weight gain, which in turn increases the body’s need for nutrition. The resulting vicious cycle can create obesity and starvation because the body’s real nutritional needs aren’t met—in spite of food consumption.

 

Hunger and cravings attack and emotional helplessness and self-flagellation set in. It’s a debilitating process that many can’t understand. Shaming someone for their hunger doesn’t work; it simply exacerbates the problem because the cortisol that comes from the stress of feeling shamed saps the body’s last nutritional stores and whips the adrenals into fatigue. It is like being a lone soldier on the battlefront—without a team to cover one’s back. Isolation leads to more stress and the emotional comfort of food masks the real instigator—nutritional starvation.

 

A billion-dollar diet industry has blossomed and is filled with experts telling people how to eat and what to eat; yet the problem persists. In an earlier post, I share that there is not a perfect diet solution for everyone because our bodies metabolize food differently. While a raw food diet works great for some people, another person may thrive on a protein-based, lower carbohydrate diet. There is a simple metabolic test I recommend in order to find out how your body processes food. I’d beware of any diet or nutrition expert that only advocates one kind of diet plan and that doesn’t give you a metabolic assessment first. See my previous post to learn more: http://kimberlykey.typepad.com/kimberlykey/2014/07/let-your-body-tell-you-what-to-feed-it-understanding-your-personal-metabolism-.html

 

Like the metabolic test that addresses how your body processes food, I have discovered a test that can assess your personal nutrition needs. What really excites me about this test is that it takes any existing medical conditions into consideration and provides nutritional needs based on your current health while giving vitamin & supplement solutions THAT DON’T INTERFERE WITH ANY OF YOUR MEDICATIONS. This is so huge. Even with training in toxicology, I personally get lured into wanting to take additional supplements to fix all of my ailments (or to prevent them) and I can seriously risk taking over the counter ‘natural’ supplements that dangerously interact with each other or with my prescriptions. It’s so difficult because many of the nutrition sales agents (and doctors) can’t keep track of simple contraindications of vitamins and supplements—AND MEDS. This test has a fantastic database with all of this knowledge and can recommend what you need without any dangerous consequences. It’s all HIPPAA compliant and the vitamins and supplements they supply are all top of the line pharmaceutical-grade quality. Best news is the test is for free. After a year of scrutinizing the company, I finally signed up as a distributor, so you can take the free test on my site: KimberlyKey.IDLife.com

 

There’s a 30-day money back guarantee, so try a 29-day challenge…take the test and try the nutritional supplements they recommend for 29 days. See how you feel and notice if cravings have diminished. Take note how your joints feel. Has energy increased? Is skin more supple and are wounds healing faster? Do you find you’re actually eating less and feeling more sated? Have stomachaches and headaches decreased? Has your mood improved? Does the world seem just a little bit better than it did before? That’s what meeting your nutritional needs feels like.:)

 

 Please let me know if you have any questions at Kimberly AT EncompassWF dot com.


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.

 

 


Part II to last post - A Spiritual Solution to Grief, Recovery & Free Will

I have a confession. It concerns the reason for the long delay of my writing Part II to my last post. It also discloses a bit of personal information. I offer it, however, as a way of illustrating the grief and recovery process.

My mother passed a few months ago. Honestly, it was rather unexpected. Yes, she had been ill and hospitalized a few times. This last time was the worst and the doctor gave her a timeline—one year. He added that he had seen people live for up to six years. They released her from the hospital on a Friday and she passed two days later. I wasn’t even there. I live almost 2,000 miles away and since she was getting released from the hospital, I had decided to visit her the following week for Mother’s Day. It aches that I wasn’t with her and wasn’t able to physically hug her and tell her I love her.

Ironically, I considered writing about the grief process after I returned from her funeral. I have the information and training. I could use it to write about grief stages for others, I told myself. A couple of weeks passed. Then I had an ah-hah moment and began to write about how people can overcome their genetics (and contrary to the response from one commenter in the post, I actually have been in discussions with many researchers that believe our behavior is hard-wired by our genetics). Yes, I was on a secret mission to counter that argument and then give solid research on how we can all be more in control of our genetic predispositions and live healthier and happier lives.

Of course, now I can see that all of that was in reaction to losing my mother. She had diabetes and was only 62 years old. I began to get upset that her food and lifestyle choices are what took her away and left me alone and with all this sadness and guilt. (Funny how we make it about ourselves.) So in a classic grief move— where one feels out of control due to the internal mix of denial, anger, bargaining and depression—I took control. Taking control is a hallmark symptom of grief because we feel out of control, so we overcompensate and attempt to take more control. Usually our efforts fail.

That’s what happened to Part II of my blog. I wanted to tell people about all of the research on healthy living. I wanted to warn people about the dangers of sugar, obesity and inactivity. Heck, while I was at it, maybe I could address all the addictions in the world—from smoking to workaholism and all the isms. How about the dangers lurking in the 1,000+ invisible chemicals that saturate non-organic coffee beans? Or the dangerous phthalates that are leeching into the liquid of all those healthy looking water bottles? Is anyone remembering Chicken Littleright now? “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

Takeaway number one—the next time you’re annoyed by someone preaching on their soap box about something, maybe you can be a little patient and realize that maybe, just maybe, they are feeling a wee bit out of control and it’s just their attempt to overcompensate. With that disclaimer, I’m still going to share how I have been arriving at that ethereal stage of grief—acceptance. It even provides the answer that was promised in Part I of my blog! (How’s that for making up for lost time?) Please Click here to continue reading full post on Psychology Today... Thank you!


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.

 


Inspiration for Changing Careers and/or Creating New Employment

I have a number of posts about job hunting tips, managing your net rep (Internet Reputation), cultivating entrepreneurial success and more (see Career or Business archives--note that articles date back to 2006). Today I thought I'd share some links to articles that would give you some inspiration.

One is a story that a reporter wrote that I find truly inspiring. While, yes, she may have quoted me in the story--let me tell you what she's doing with her career. An accomplished reporter who has covered business and technology for Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, and MIT's Technology Review  to name a few, has taken the brave move to pursue a newfound dream brimming with passion and meaning for her--she is going back to school to pursue veterinary medicine. I'm so thrilled for her and think she's an inspiration for many who feel like it's too late to switch careers. To read the article she wrote after interviewing dozens of other brave souls that took a similar turn, click here http://www.timesunion.com/business/article/Changing-careers-means-tolerating-risk-and-doubt-1413412.php. To follow her success and adventures in vet school, see her blog here jessicamintz.wordpress.com.

While Jessica provides inspiration for those who are thinking about changing careers, how about the folks that are trying to find a job and are feeling neck deep in despair? I wrote a post for Psychology Today on the topic. I shatter some myths about job and career security and try to provide some ideas to help. See my article, "Overcoming Unemplyment, Reclaiming Spirit."

As always, please let me know what you think of anything I write--and please share any ideas for topics you'd like me to address.

 


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.

Read More

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

 

 

 


What is the Difference Between Counseling and Psychology…and Where in the World Does the Term “Shrink” Come From?

For a discipline that’s only around 130 years old, psychology has a lot of practitioners sporting a number of different titles (and I’m not talking about the local bartender down the street, although they can sometimes be quite excellent listeners). I’m talking about psychotherapists, therapists, psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, marriage and family therapists, and counselors. What’s the difference and why so many titles?  

This post aims to provide a little more clarity about the differing psychological services among practitioners and describes how one discipline grew to focus on mental health while the other focuses on mental illness. In addition, there are answers to some of the common questions about the people who have taken on psychology.

While many think of Sigmund Freud as the first psychology practitioner, it was Wilhelm Wundt who opened the first psychology lab in 1879. Wundt sought to examine human consciousness using an experimental method he called introspection (for interested researchers, he did not use the scientific method as experiments weren’t able to be duplicated). Like its shaky scientific beginnings, the field grew to have a varied background –some of it contains a solid scientific background and others are a bit more airy-fairy, so to speak. 

Perhaps the ethereal aspect of airy-fairy isn’t so far off as psychology literally means “study of the soul” (psychē means “soul, spirit or breath” while logia means “to study”).  A more modern definition means to study human behavior and thought, but we’re going to come back to that definition in a bit. A blessing of psychology’s birth as a discipline was how mentally ill (or perceived mentally ill) people were treated. Just prior to the late 1800s in Western culture—long after people with ‘visions’ had been treated as oracles or shamans—it was believed that people suffered from mental illness because God had cursed them. Consequently, mentally ill people were punished with severe beatings, chainings and/or ostracism. Psychology helped change such views and a more holistic (and humane) approach to treatment was adopted.

Many of the first practitioners in the field were Medical Doctors (M.D.s). A medical doctor has attended medical school. Today’s M.D.s in the field are called psychiatrists and they can provide therapy services while prescribing medications. Psychologists are practitioners that have received their Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.).  A number of other mental health fields offer graduate and Ph.D. degrees in social work, marriage and family therapy, various forms of counseling and counseling psychology—which brings me to the title of this post. What is the difference between counseling and psychology?

Going back to a bit of history, World War II put a big spotlight on mental health as the war had serious mental health impacts on soldiers (war impacts EVERYONE and it has a trickle down effect through the generations). The National Mental Health Act was first passed in 1946 and the U.S. government began funding research and programs related to mental illness and health. In the 1950s, prevention and early detection of mental health problems became a focus. Slowly, a shift in perceptions occurred where people could safely seek treatment for adjustment, transitions, and relational issues without feeling stigmatized. (Clearly, we are still working on shifting those perceptions – in addition to war, old belief systems also trickle down through the generations).

As part of the shift, psychology has generally been defined as treating mental illness and counseling psychology was born to address mental health issues. 

Some of the fundamental tenets of counseling are:

  • People should be treated with respect
  • If given the opportunity, normal growth will occur
  • The goal of treatment is to promote healthy growth
  • Counseling is an educational process where the client is part of the process and actively participates
  • Counseling builds on strengths as opposed to attacking weaknesses
  • Counseling uses empirically validated procedures (scientifically proven via research using scientific method) 

I hope this helps illustrate a little of the history and explains some of the differences in the professional titles and orientations. I could write so much more and may follow up with later posts that address length and duration time of various therapies. For now, let me switch to a few of the common questions I hear.

 

Answers to Some Common Questions

Are you really going to shrink my head? 

No.  Shrink comes from shrinking the issue. Notice how we can sometimes get so overwhelmed by everything that it feels like the sky is falling, so we throw it all out there. Often times a good therapist/counselor can help you SHRINK the issues down to a single root cause. (But now I want a shrunken head for Christmas just to tease folks. ;))

 

Are you analyzing me? (when just meeting me at a social occasion)

No. Well, maybe. Seriously, the therapeutic process follows a particular process of information gathering and analysis. Unless you’re in the office and experiencing that process, you’re probably not getting analyzed. Therapists/counselors cannot see through you or read your mind. :)

 

Have you ever been through therapy?

Yes. Good training requires that you do. Plus, I believe in it. I confess there are some not great folks out there and I’ve seen and paid for their services. Like all fields, there are good people and not so good people. Don’t let the rotten apples deter you from seeking good service.

 

Did you go into the field to work through your problems?

There isn’t a person alive that hasn’t taken a job to work through a problem (e.g. I have bills to pay ;)). I also don’t know anyone who hasn’t been wounded in some way by life. For me, yes, I would call myself a wounded healer. I’ve experienced a number of things in life that I believe ultimately helps me to be more empathetic and understanding of my clients.

 

Do you date your clients? 

No. It’s not like the movies or TV shows. All therapy professionals are prohibited from having dual relationships. If you have had your therapist ask you out or make you uncomfortable with inappropriate flirting, stop seeing them and report them. It’s an abuse of power and your vulnerability.

 

 


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. 

 


How to Master Dating, Love & Marriage: Cracking the Heart’s Hidden Love Code

Love…1
 

Poets describe it as a kind of 3rd entity, like it captured someone…or someone caught it.

As giddy as love feels, what if I told you that you were responsible for the swooning feelings of love that seemed to have appropriated your senses? Like a great chef creating a wonderful stew, you have put all the ingredients into the pot. Time and temperature have their influences too—yet nothing would be there to cook without your initial configuration.

Here’s how it works. We automatically categorize all of the experiences with another person and are constantly assessing whether the experiences tally up against our subconscious love list. The heart’s hidden lock opens to the feelings of love when the right amount of experiences takes place with another person and the love list gets checked off.

The high from that initial rush of love is so intoxicating, that it’s no wonder we persist in playing the dating game in order to crack the heart’s code. Our reactions to the properly sequenced code are a forgone conclusion. It’s a pact we made in adolescence, listening to our families, friends, and watching endless romantic movies, and listening to similar narratives applied to an array of musical beats. We were conditioned and we are conditioned to playing the love game. No wonder it feels like a third-person. It is. We disconnect from our conscious mind and go into reactive conditioning mode. We follow and our head doesn’t understand. But, our body and soul have been so trained. They leave our shocked, misunderstood logical brain behind in the dust. It’s almost primal. We lose control because we never had it. It’s simply our pre-wired reactions taking over, almost like in hypnosis. 

Oftentimes, women tend to react stronger to love because they have engaged in more of the narratives than men, which is one reason romance movies get dubbed a “chick flick.” Men’s narratives are more diluted with other “manly/non-emotional” narratives, so they don’t get as lost in the primal reactions. However, they are more likely to get swept up in the primal reactive conditioning of sex. They are trained from birth to ogle a woman’s body and seek pleasure from it. This might explain why women, generally, prefer romance and men prefer sex. But take note that our times are changing and the narratives are also changing, so we may be experiencing a lot of blurred roles and role reversal.

Blurred roles or not, love’s checklist is pretty consistent. Think about your own dating experience and notice how dates that made you feel in love included the following:

>    Trust gets established by sharing personal information, maybe where some pain has been involved

>    Trust is reciprocated by complete acceptance of shared story, along with nonjudgment & support

>    A cat and mouse game is played to find the perfect compatible dance (one party will shirk if the other comes on too strong and vice versa…proper balance is determined through light jesting, debating, teasing, etc.)

 Showing acceptable vulnerability and caretaking responses

>   Painting an image of future goals to see if there’s a shared match/compatibility between both pictures

>    Physical and intellectual compatibility

The heart unlocks (or primal conditioning kicks in) when these items are checked offNote - Both parties must feel and meet conditions or else it is infatuation.

Like that simmering stew, these conditions require consistency. Anything that deviates from the picture (an inconsistency, warning signs, etc.) can get immediately dismissed to maintain the illusion of love or it can result in shutting off the feelings of love altogether. For instance, cognitive dissonance (denial) may prevent the mind from engaging to keep the intoxicating feelings of love in place. Conversely, the heart will close and love will evaporate if inconsistencies are examined or when items on the checklist begin to get unchecked (e.g. picture of future isn’t compatible anymore, support has been removed, judgment/criticism takes hold). Logic supersedes primal conditioning and the people move on. This can happen within as little as 10 minutes to as long as 10 or more years. The key is that love can only thrive when the condition of love’s checklist are met.

In closing, consider these conditions if you are in love, falling in love, or looking for love. They comprise the secret formula to a successful relationship and the gift of giddiness that complete love brings. Being aware of your hidden checklist also allows you to appreciate love from the logical, emotional and primal brain. Being aware from all of these perspectives may also help you overcome any denial that is keeping you in a false love/infatuated/dangerous love situations. Remember you are not a victim or a hostage of love—you are the Chef and master of your heart’s love.

 


A Self-Assessment to Help you get the Most from Love & Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Are you ready for it? It’s interesting because I’ve heard people rumbling about it for weeks—almost more than any other day of celebration. It seems to have created a lot of anxiety in people (single folks and those in relationships).

Some complain with “bah humbug” disdain, stating that the day is only a commercialized excuse to sell cards and candy.

Others are sad that they are alone and feel like it’s a day to make single people feel bad.

Still others are in love with the idea of love and seem more attached to romantic gestures and displays of love than the person they actually claim to love. 

There are more scenarios, but you get the picture. People everywhere have an opinion about a day that’s dedicated to the celebration of love. It’s no wonder as love is the essential feeling that ties us together, ensures our continued existence, and makes us feel better than the most high-priced drug. Some even call it a drug. Yet, at its core, it’s the most basic human need that can heal all ails. 

When an infant is given love and a secure environment, that love floods their brain and bodies with all the rich hormones and chemicals needed later in life for resilience, adaptability and intrinsic happiness. No wonder we spend so long chasing after the feel good safe experience—especially if we didn’t get the full dose of comfort we needed as an infant. This isn’t about blaming your mother though. It’s about taking steps now to give yourself what you need, so that you can approach your loved ones and Valentine’s Day with realistic expectations and attain the satisfaction you crave.

The number one challenge when approaching love (and Valentine’s Day) is that we’re often trying to get something we desperately desire that, in actuality, we can only give ourselves. Thus, we feel frustrated by our own unmet needs while feeling taxed by the demands from our loved ones. 

Note the vicious cycle—how can we give something to someone that they can only give to themselves while we feel simultaneously depleted? It’s like two racecars expecting each other’s engines when they were only supposed to enjoy the experience of racing with each other. 

To break the cycle, here’s the self-assessment to help you fill your own engine (your heart) so that you can enjoy the race (life/love/activities/making memories) with your loved ones…

ASSESSMENT - Take a piece of paper and divide it in two columns. In one column, write down all of the loving things you’ve done for others. It can span all time and all relationships. Be sure to include any loving acts and accommodations that you feel good about.  In the second column, write down the loving things you’ve done for yourself. Think about any dreams in your heart and actions you’ve taken to allow yourself to achieve them. Which list is longer? Write about any feelings and reactions you’ve had in examining the two lists.


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.


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.)


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.



Adapting to an Empty Nest and Sharing Parenting Pearls Learned Along the Way

I ate chocolate cake for breakfast today. I fed my sadness. I’m not proud of it (although it was an exceptionally delectable piece of my homemade specialty). Yes, I break down and succumb to unhealthy measures to escape my feelings from time to time. As a counseling psychology professional, I’m just a little more aware of the implications when I do it. The trouble today? Looming empty-nest syndrome brought on by my daughter’s impending graduation.

My daughter and I are extremely close and I’m profoundly proud of her. I knew one day she would grow and flee the nest, but even now it’s surreal to me. We’ll get through it and I’ll be strong. I owe her that. She’s going off to college to pursue her dreams and I can only imagine how frightening it is for her to move away.

That’s where I draw my strength. Being strong and reassuring will help her when she’s feeling homesick. I say this because I know there are other mothers out there who are feeling just as crushed as I feel. I’m also a single mom of an only child, so I deeply understand the secret desire to hold on. Don’t. Let them fly and be proud. If you’re struggling, find support with other moms (in fact, feel free to contact me and let’s start a support group together!).

Having stated that, I want to take a moment to share some parenting pearls that have worked wonders for me these past 18 years. These pearls haven’t always been supported by my colleagues, but I felt convicted about how I was raising my daughter and followed my heart and instincts. Seeing her success and emotional maturity today confirms my choices.

1.             Love your child unconditionally.

Some professionals have suggested that I have loved/love my daughter too much. NEVER. I believe you can NEVER love your child ENOUGH. It is not enmeshment; it is a parental duty to put your child above and beyond everything else. Choices and decisions you make should be carefully weighed against their impact on your children.

Sidney Poitier brilliantly describes such sentiment in a scene from the 1967 drama, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” when his father complains about the sacrifices he made for him and Poitier’s character retorts that it was his job as a father to work so hard for his kids and family.

2.             Kids are spoiled by things, not your love.

Children become demanding when things (toys, money, monster-sized lonely houses, overstuffed playrooms, etc.) are thrown at them in place of the love and nurturing they need. Happy Meals have taught kids that they need to be entertained and given toys with each meal. You can teach them the opposite.

A trick I tried that seemed effective was when visiting a fast food restaurant (only on rare occasions did we go to such places), I’d share a burger with my daughter. No Happy Meal with toys and games. We’d get one burger and enjoy it under a tree at some park. She’d learn to share, spend quality time with me, and to not expect some flimsy toy with each meal. To this day, she still raves about our memories of getting a “big, juicy burger.” 

We also have formal dinners every night (most nights) and cook together. Lighting a candle at dinner makes it extra special. Such routines inspire joy, gratitude and reverence for life’s gifts.

3.             Consistency is critical when raising children.

Kids will naturally manipulate if they experience inconsistency. However, what most people don’t realize is that children actually feel insecure when rules are slippery. Therefore, reinforcing and being consistent with your rules helps to make your children feel safe and secure. They might still test your rules to see what they can get away with, but that’s just to know that they can count on you and a safe world.

Similarly, they need your yeses to be consistent too. Love and praise them and don’t back off of the good things you’ve promised them. Don’t say you’ll go to their game and not show up. Don’t promise to take them to the movies and then not go. Doing so shows slippery rules and you’ll teach them to be just as slippery and noncompliant (along with feeling heartbroken).

4.             TRUST your kids - even your teens.

If you’ve raised your children in a manner of loving consistency and not spoiling them, you’ve raised emotionally mature kids. As teens, you need to listen to their feelings and create empathy. Sure, they’ll go through emotional up and downs. Who doesn’t when one’s body is rapidly changing and hormones are fluctuating beyond belief? Love, support and listen to them.

If you distrust everything they say and set up a power struggle, you are sure to have a rough ride. Too many parents expect the worst and also expect their kids to be perfect. They see emotional reactivity as noncompliance when most of the time, kids really just need a hug and some reassurance to get through the changing chaos of their growth. My daughter’s and my conflicts have just melted away when we stop, hug each other, and mutually share what we’re really experiencing. After all, trust is a two-way street and empathy is the only bridge to peace and healing.

Writing this has been therapeutic for me as it allows me to look back on my daughter’s life, smiling and remembering all of it. Like eating the chocolate cake this morning, I haven’t been a perfect parent. I’ve been inconsistent at times and have definitely engaged in some battles of will. Overall, however, it’s been absolutely amazing. My daughter is the joy of my life and I know I did right by making decisions around her best wellbeing. She’s given back 1,000-fold too.

My best presents, my best memories, and my best accomplishments have been with and because her. Some might argue it’s enmeshment and I disagree.  It’s parenthood - the most important job I, and you, will ever have. My daughter is strong, loving, compassionate, communicative, mature, independent, and confident. She is also quite talented and creative. She needed love to feel safe. She needed trust to trust her own internal guidance. She needed freedom to learn independence. She needed consistency to learn self-discipline. She needed gratitude to grow spiritually and fuel her creative gifts. She is ready to flee the nest and achieve her dreams. So am I—with a deep breath, a broad smile, unshakable support, gigantic applause, and maybe a couple extra pounds.


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.

How to Choose the Perfect Valentine

Baby_cupid Valentine’s Day is almost here. Have you singled out your special sweetheart yet? Well before you start sizing up the candidates in your little blackberry, consider this: How you select your Valentine may very well indicate how you choose your life partner—and how you choose your partner can reveal your overall relationship success.

 

Rule #1 is to be selective—be VERY selective—don’t just run out and find a Valentine (or life partner) because a holiday is here; because everyone else is doing it; because you’re lonely; or because you feel ‘fond enough’ of someone.

 

To enhance your selectivity, use these tips for choosing the perfect Valentine (and/or life partner):

 

  • Friendship & Trust—you must feel safe with your Valentine and have a strong friendship that allows you to be your real self.

 

  • Laughter & Lightness—no relationship can endure non-stop seriousness. Find a Valentine that loves to play and laugh with you.

 

  • Attraction & Tenderness—love blooms with mutual attraction, but it also needs tenderness to keep your Valentine’s love alive and thriving (cuddling, caring about each other’s feelings and desires, genuine interest, real listening, etc.).

 

  • Values & Depth—your Valentine needs to match your values and depth level to keep balance in the relationship. Any imbalance in this area is destined to implode.

 

  • Meaning—you and your Valentine connect best when you have a shared story, purpose or reason that makes it feel as though you’re somehow destined to be together.

 

Be patient if you don’t have a Valentine that fits the bill. Remember, nature abhors a vacuum, so make room in your heart to allow your perfect Valentine to enter.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!


How to Make New Year’s Resolutions that Stick

Happy Holidays to everyone out there. I hope the peace of the season is able to find its way into your and your loved ones’ heart, mind, spirit and body. Best wishes for 2009! I hear it’s going to be a good one, so spread the word.

 

If you’re taking a break from your revelry or hard work to read this right now (or if it’s just a way of procrastinating), let me try to offer a little inspiration to help you make your New Year’s resolutions last throughout 2009.

  

First, I’ll start by sharing an experience from graduate school. I was taking an advanced counseling class and a student was crying after recounting the pain he felt during Christmas because his mother was deceased and it was their first Christmas without her. You could feel the heavy longing in his heart as he described his immense love for her. We all hung on his every word and began to tear up with him when one student reached over to hand him a box of Kleenex. Then out of nowhere the professor intercepted the student with the Kleenex and commanded her return to her seat. It was startling and took me by surprise. All eyes were now on the professor as he explained that handing a Kleenex to a crying client interrupted the release of their pain and really indicated a counselor’s discomfort with heavier emotions.

 

What does that have to do with making New Year’s resolutions? The answer has a twist in it.

 

When you think of New Year’s resolutions, what comes to mind? Losing weight? Quitting smoking? Increasing exercise? Being on time to appointments and with deadlines? Increasing your bottom line?

 

Have you noticed what many of the typical resolutions have in common? They are remedial in nature and tend to focus on weaknesses. They are like dictates from our inner slave-driver that is disgusted by us and is demanding improvement. So we respond by setting the prescribed resolutions as our goal and then try to adhere to them a bit begrudgingly. It is no wonder that more than 2/3 of Americans polled have abandoned their New Year’s resolutions by spring.

 

So, how can you make New Year’s resolutions that stick?

 

This is where the twist comes in.

 

Typically, this time of year brings up a host of emotions for people. Many experience grief—grief over a lost loved one; grief over an unfulfilled dream; grief over money; grief over lost career or market opportunities; even grief over the lack of sunlight. Grief has a stealth way of getting you if it isn’t completely processed—which is more frequent than not. We put it aside. Friends hand us Kleenex and tell us to cheer up and that it will get better. So we repress. Then, I believe, we beat ourselves up a bit and demand a few ridiculous resolutions (maybe they’re not ridiculous, but we feel a little rebellious by our inner slave-driver).

 

Would you like an alternative suggestion that will result in New Year’s resolutions that stick?

 

One, don’t be afraid to take a little time-out to grieve this season. It’s normal and healthy. Take some time to walk by yourself and allow the feelings to flow. Maybe write about it in a journal. Talk and process it a bit. Look at old pictures, former goals, re-read old diaries…whatever it is that helps the feelings come up and flow out. Taking a little time for this can provide you rejuvenation. It also makes you a little more alive.

 

Second, after you’ve given yourself time to grieve and you’ve nurtured yourself. Attempt to make resolutions that focus on the positive. Try assessing your strengths and resolve to enhance what you’re already good at and love. Whatever you commit to, do it from a place of self-care and not inner slave-driver. Then use this year as a test to see if the resolutions stick.

 

Good luck and best of care throughout 2009!

 

(this is a post from my new blog series on the Club E NETWORK, the online gathering place for entrepreneurs. It's a great resource and free to join, so check them out if you're an entrepreneur or considering starting your own business and want to learn from others.)

 

 

 


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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.
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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.

    Ancient Wisdom Reveals Why We Do What We Do

    We get so tempted to ruminate and reinvent the wheel when history has already revealed an answer. Chances are whatever project on you're working or whatever problem you're trying to solve has been contemplated before and maybe even fixed. That's why Goethe said "He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth." So, check with your elders and look at history.

    As for psychology's history, at just over 100 years old, the field is just an infant. However its parent -philosophy - is much older and has much wisdom to shed. For instance, here is what Aristotle 384 BC- 322 BC (student of Socrates and tutor to Alexander the Great) purported long ago...

    All human actions have one or more of these seven causes:

    CHANCE

    NATURE

    COMPULSION

    HABIT

    REASON

    PASSION

    DESIRE

    Can you find one of these root causes in your own behavior?


    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.


    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?



    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!)


    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).



    A Must-Read for Career & Leadership Success

    People often ask me for a book recommendation that will help them or their team overcome self-defeating behaviors that sabotage their success. For instance, have you or someone you know ever battled with procrastination and missed a critical deadline? Or perhaps you can relate to those that are trying to cultivate courage to leave a secure but unsatisfying job. Maybe you or an employee is struggling with defensiveness and being closed off which causes one to become ostracized from the team and miss out on promotions. There's also the other groups of folks that you might relate to that are afraid of confrontation and have trouble speaking out in meetings or experience extreme difficulty in letting an ineffective employee go. All of these situations and more are addressed in a fabulous book that is sure to be one of your favorite resources for yourself and those you're leading. It's "Get Out of Your Own Way at Work...and Help Others Do the Same" by best selling author Mark Goulston, M.D. Dr. Goulston is a revered business consultant and psychiatrist who writes the syndicated column "Solve Anything with Dr. Mark" for the Tribune Company papers and Fast Company. Moreover, he's the kind of respectable and inspiring leader that walks the talk of providing strong leadership mixed with genuine empathy. He has mastered quality of life balance and can help you do the same. You'll like his practical advice, usable insights and wisdom on wellness.


    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


    Are You Living Life in the Fast Lane?

    I learned my preference for pace of life the hard way. I once had the opportunity to "escape" the fast-lane and move to a quiet little village tucked away in the magnificent Sierra Mountains that overlooked the breathtaking Lake Tahoe. It was a dream come true-or so I thought. I had a lovely home with the kind of stone fireplace that makes you feel warm and loved. Aromatic pine trees reached high above and into the heavens. Life was grand. I was going to use this soulful communion to be a writer and release the novels that were screaming to get outside of me. Then a reality began to creep in. I fought it as much as I could, but it won. I discovered that I could only commune with the pine trees for so long. Boredom, no isolation, kicked in and drove me nuts. It's a long story, but that's when I learned that I needed a little bit more than just peace and solitude in my life. Some people thrive on continuous calming serenity with while others require the nonstop buzz of a fast-lane life. I am somewhere in the middle. (Note to couples-figure out if you match in this area and/or learn how to compromise!)

    To find find out where you stand on the continuum of needing quiet solitude & being addicted to the fast-lane (without actually moving like I did!), take this short 7-question "Pace of Life" quiz by Prof. Richard Wiseman and The British Council.


    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?


    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.


    Benefits of Alone Time

    In this fast-paced, productive-driven society, it is easy to forget to take time for yourself. I'm talking about REAL alone time too, not time spent watching TV, perusing the Internet or playing video games. It's time with yourself where you can get reconnected with your soul. It's daydreaming, meditating, walking outside and smelling the flowers (or feeling the cool wind on your face in this weather). It's critical to get connected with yourself in such a manner, yet we often overlook the benefits of such time...putting it off to do something else that seems more important at the time. But we lose--and we lose BIG--if we don't take the time, for it's during these times that our hearts tell us how we feel, what we want and where we want to go. It's like a retreat or a board meeting with your soul that has lasting health and spiritual benefits. That's why the ORIGINAL definition for "alone" was "all one". Taking alone time helps you become ALL ONE in spirit, body and mind. It guides you to a life of congruence...and quite frankly, makes my job unnecessary.


    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.


    Resources for Abandonment Recovery

    Separation and abandonment wounds from childhood can scar a person so deeply that they become extra-sensitive to rejection and experience heightened anxiety in their relationships (at school, work and/or home). Many also find repeating patterns of abandonment continuing in their life (losing a job, being left by a loved one, feeling rejected, having a friendship end, etc.) and are struggling to find a way to heal and break the abandonment pattern. If this is happening for you, you might want to check out Susan Anderson's book "The Journey from Abandonment to Recovery: Turn the End of a Relationship into the Beginning of a New Life." For additional information, you can check out her website dedicated to Abandonment Recovery.


    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.


    Finding Meaning through Erikson's Life Stages

    The meaning of life is a giant topic--one that has preoccupied theologians, philosophers, scholars, and humankind throughout time. All kinds of theories have been posited, but have you ever noticed that your own personal viewpoint has changed over the years? For instance, your 5 year-old self might have said that the meaning of life is about learning the alphabet in order to have recess while your 19 year-old self may have suggested that meaning is about finding love. Whatever the answers, it does seem to change over one's lifetime. That's why Erik H. Erickson was pretty brilliant when he suggested in the late 1950's that people experience specific "psychosocial stages" during their life. Some of these stages borrow (but slightly differ) from Sigmund Freud, while others are added to address all of one's living years. Many lifestage theories have come about since Erikson, but you'll find strong similarities. This post is dedicated to Erikson and remembers his original stages. Take a look at them and think about how they match up to your life experiences.

    0-18 months
    Trust vs. Mistrust

    Does infant have enough loving and nurturing to develop a sense of trust or does infant become distrustful when not consistently nurtured or heard? According to John Bowlby's Attachment Theory, this is where a secure, avoidant or anxious attachment comes into play.

    18 months-2 or 3 years
    Autonomy vs. Shame or Doubt

    This is where the child begins to recognize their independence. A parent's reaction to this stage can create feelings of autonomy and self-esteem or, it is suggested, that an over-bearing and punishing parent can make child feel doubt, shame and lead to lower self-esteem throughout life.

    2 or 3-6 years
    Initiative vs. Guilt

    This is an extension of the previous stage where a child recognizes independence and takes initiative through individual acts. Child begins to develop a sense of responsibility over their own actions. Again, it is suggested that a parent's reaction will result in a child feeling guilty about this expression of independence or validated to take initiative.

    6-11 years
    Industry vs. Inferiority

    Typically, a child at age 4 will begin to play with (interactively) other children. Similarly this stage involves a child developing a sense of self-worth via interactions with peers. In addition, teachers and the educational environment play a critical role in helping the child to feel encouraged and industrious or insecure and inferior.

    11 years-teen years
    Identity vs. Identity Diffusion

    Not surprisingly, this is the most well-known stage of identity development. The teenager develops an identity by literally trying out different "selves" and finding one that fits. Peers, role models and social pressure play a part in this developmental stage.

    Late Teen-Early Adulthood
    Intimacy vs. Isolation

    The preoccupation with this stage is developing close relationships and achieving intimacy. Think marriage, partnership, family, religious commitment, career achievement...and fear of being isolated and not obtaining goals.

    Middle Adulthood
    Generativity vs. Self-Absorbtion

    Assuming intimacy has been achieved, generativity now takes hold. How can one give back to their community and feel their contributions are worthwhile? The other side of the struggle is that one does not give back and remains self-absorbed.

    Late Adulthood-End of Life
    Integrity vs. Despair

    This last stage is about looking back at one's life, facing death and overcoming despair. Integrity is about integrating the experiences of one's life and finding a sense of satisfaction and meaning.



    What is Your Formula for Living Long & Well?

    Like Will Smith's latest movie, "The Pursuit of Happyness," it seems people are always seeking a better life. What is that magic formula that will make us happy? Home? Money? Love? Family? Security? Youth? Health? The list could go on. Abraham Maslow attempted to prioritize the list with his hierarchy of needs (Maslow's Hierarchy). He described that food, shelter and clothing are basic needs while self-actualization is a higher need. He suggests that people can pursue higher needs once the basic needs are achieved. Makes sense, but there might be a both/and in there. In other words, it is possible to pursue both higher needs and basic needs at the same time. Perhaps the winning formula is a bit more multi-pronged (or systemic) like that. For instance, one group of researchers has been on a quest to understand what contributes to the longevity of life. They discovered regions throughout the world where people lived longer, healthier lives. The answer appears to be composed of a variety of factors such as strong social support and family support along with diet and lifestyle. The researchers call these community pockets of long life "blue zones" and they're about to explore another blue zone in Costa Rica on January 29. Check in on their progress and think about how you can develop your own winning formula for living long and well. Remember to address the rich diversity of factors influencing your life! Best wishes...