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Entries from January 2008

Emotional Closeness Key to Raising Daughters

Another study reveals differences exist in men and women. This one, published in The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, looks at family factors that contribute to social self-esteem in young college women. Kelly Gorbett and Theresa Kruczek from Ball State University examined several influencers (family adaptability, amount of time left in care of others, birth order, siblings, gender, and family cohesion) and discovered that family cohesion and healthy sibling relationships fostered later social self-esteem--a critical component of mental health and achievement.

What's interesting about this research is that it pokes a hole in the theory that cautions families against enmeshment, or being too close. Instead, this research finds that the close bond with daughters actually helps the daughters even more. Perhaps part of it is due to the fact that women's oxytocin levels increase (the bonding hormone) when they share secrets and are close. In contrast, men's oxytocin levels increases after sex--which may explain why men tend to run when women talk about problems. Women are seeking to bond and men may not understand that. Nonetheless, with a little patience and understanding men can increase their oxytocin levels by engaging in supportive and nurturing communication with their female loved ones. Men can also help by supporting and encouraging that close talk among the women in their lives. Women, take this as reassurance that all of that sharing and closeness that feels good with your daughters really is good for them.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Employees & Family Roles: More Similar than You Think

You can't be heard if someone isn't listening. Similarly, you can't be in charge if people aren't following. Harvard University JFK School of Government lecturer Barbara Kellerman is releasing a new book next month about followers, Followership: How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders. (You can read an adaptation in the latest Harvard Business Review.) Kellerman describes five types of followers in an organization that are strikingly similar to roles in a family system. "Isolates" are detached and practically invisible to the organization, only doing what is needed in order to get by and with zero enthusiasm. "Bystanders" will go along passively as long as it serves their best interest, but are not motivated to engage. "Participants" invest their time and energy into their jobs and the organization's mission and can be strong supporters of the leadership or can create dissension by opposing leadership. "Activists" feel even stronger one way or the other and can work on behalf of their leaders or work hard to undermine them. Finally, "diehards" are rare, deeply devoted and prepared to go down for their cause. She suggests that whistleblowers can even be a type of diehard.

Family roles that are similar include the hero child. This is usually the first born and the one that takes the lead, accepts responsibility and is often the overachiever and star in the family. There is also the rebel, which is often the second born child. This role gets filled by rebelling against the hero and acting out in self-destructive ways. The next child may fill the role of the clown or mascot and is the person that tries to get the group together with humor. Their focus is on keeping the family bond united. The last child role in the family literature is the lost child. This one doesn't have an active role to fill and becomes almost invisible or agreeable to the point of not voicing their needs or desires.

How are these similar? Notice the continuum of participation. The hero child might be more like the diehard, activist or participant (or leader!) that steps us, takes the lead and derives satisfaction from doing a great job. Rebelling against the leadership can be indicative of both a hero and a rebel (depending on the leadership). Bystanders, and to some degree participants, can be like the clown/mascot and get involved when it serves their best interest (status quo). The lost child has obvious linkages to the isolates.

The theory behind the family roles is that one role gets filled by one child and squeezes the other children out, leaving them to find different roles. In other words, there's only room for one hero, so children find a way to differentiate themselves. Traditional hierarchical structures (in families and organizations) can reinforce the rigidity of these roles. Think of family heirlooms and legacies that have been reserved for the first born...or the big corner office for top performers. Often a healthy solution in a family is to cultivate the sharing of roles by rewarding the "hero" in each child. Give quality time and attention to each child and recognize their unique talents. In an organization, everyone can be given a voice by allowing employees to share their insights in a safe way (via satisfaction surveys, anonymous comments & suggestions, team meetings, open-door policies, etc.). In addition, in large organizations randomized coffee chats (via a lottery type system) can be instituted that unites leadership with different employees across the vertical and horizontal lines of the organization. Like good parenting, equal opportunity to access of being heard might foster improved team relations and positive participation among all role-players.

Essential Parenting Advice: What Your Child Needs You to Know

Whether you're going through a high-conflict divorce; raising your child(ren) as a single parent; adopting a child; parenting as a step-parent; parenting after a relocation; (all of these previous examples indicate added stressors) or parenting in the most secure and healthy situation, here is critical information that EVERY parent must know. Please share this with a parent that you know if you don't have children. They'll appreciate it.

"A Memorandum from a Child"

Don't spoil me.
I know quite well that I ought not to have all that I ask for. I am only testing you.

Don't be afraid to be firm with me.
I prefer it. It let's me know where I stand.

Don't be inconsistent.
That confuses me and makes me try harder to get away with everything I can.

Don't make promises; you may not be able to keep them.
That will discourage my trust in you.

Don't fall for my provocations when I say "I hate you."
I don't mean it, but I want you to feel sorry for what you have done to me.

Don't make me feel smaller than I am.
I will make up for it by behaving like a "big shot".

Don't do things for me that I can do myself.
It makes me feel like a baby, and I may continue to put you in my service.

Don't let my "bad habits" get me a lot of your attention.
It only encourages me to continue them.

Don't correct me in front of people.
I'll take much more notice if you talk quietly with me in private.

Don't try to discuss my behavior in the heat of conflict.
For some reason my hearing is not very good at this time and my cooperation is even worse. It is all right to take action required, but let's not talk about it until later.

Don't try to preach to me.
You'd be surprised how well I know what's right and wrong.

Don't make me feel that my mistakes are sins.
I have to learn to make mistakes without feeling that I am no good.

Don't nag.
If you do, I shall have to protect myself by appearing deaf.

Don't demand explanations for my wrong behavior.
Sometimes I really don't know why I did it.

Don't tax my honesty too much.
I am easily frightened into telling lies.

Don't forget that I love to experiment.
I learn from it, so please put up with it.

Don't protect me from consequences.
I need to learn from experience.

Don't take too much notice of my small ailments.
I may learn to enjoy poor health if it gets me extra attention.

Don't answer "silly" or meaningless questions.
I just want you to keep busy with me.

Don't put me off when I ask HONEST questions.
If you do, you will find that I stop asking and seek my information elsewhere.

Don't ever think that it is beneath your dignity to apologize to me.
An honest apology makes me feel surprisingly warm toward you.

Don't ever suggest that you are perfect or infallible.
It gives me too much to live up to.

Don't worry about the little amount of time we spend together.
It is how we spend it that counts.

Don't let my fears arouse your anxiety.
Then I will become more afraid. Show me courage.

Don't forget that I can't thrive without lots of understanding and encouragement,
but complimentary approval when honestly earned is sometimes forgotten when it seems like a scolding never is.

Treat me the way you treat friends, then I will be your friend too.
Remember, I learn more from a model than a critic.

(adapted from Dr. Glasser's Schools without Failure)

I'll add these for children of divorce...

Don't insult my other parent.
It makes me feel unsafe and fear that you don't like me because I am half of them.

Don't make me choose between you and my other parent.
It tears me up inside and makes me feel like I'm in a war that I cannot win. I'm here because of both you. Choosing may force me to lie and manipulate in order to survive.

Take extra care of me through change.
I thrive with consistency. Disruptions and continued change cause harm to me, making it difficult for me to thrive and grow.

Please remember all the changes I am going through and take care of me without expecting me to take care of you.
I am constantly growing and having body aches. My brain is on overdrive as I learn at school and in everyday activities. These changes are happening so rapidly that I can get exhausted, leaving me little energy or know-how to parent you, so please parent me.

Don't fight and battle with my other parent.
Nonstop battles scare me and lead me to regress, get depressed, withdrawal or act, out and give me lasting wounds that are similar to a soldier at battle...especially because I'm not grown up enough to understand it or take care of myself through it. I need both of you to focus on me, not your resentments toward each other.