This Blog Is About

This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

How's The Fit Re-visited (#4)

"We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit." - Aristotle
And so, also, is kindness and lying, or generosity and friendliness, or pessimism and honesty, activism, technological skill, playing an instrument, any skill for that matter and any of a number of human traits.  Excellence is but one example.  In other words, if you make a consistent effort to understand others and to be considerate in your behavior toward others-you will probably become a kindly person.  If you often tell lies, you will be a liar.  Whatever you do on a regular basis will turn into part of who you are.  It will develop into a trait or skill that you identify as a part of your self-description, others who know you will list that as one of your characteristics, and it will, in part, shape your life. 
So, the question is, does your life feel like a good fit?  Is it the life you want ?  One of my patients declared last week that he wants " work on getting the life I want..."  Is what you are doing and spending
 the most time or effort on, creating the shape you want your life to be?  A personal quality can, to a great extent be grown, like a skill, with practice.

Who do you want to be?

The first post on this topic:      

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hope and A Tree

Yesterday, talking with a young woman, a college student, she was laying out her goals, all of the things that she hopes to achieve now and in the next few years.  They were a mix of practical things-like how to start her own business and what actions she might be prudent to take to prepare for acceptance and transfer to the university she has her sights set on.  Included were some personal 
growth wishes like, to become more accepting of herself and to develop her spirituality.  She was primarily asking for some specific advice and also expressing her dreams.  
   As we continued in this lively interaction, she paused and said that she suddenly felt nervous---unsure of whether she will achieve all that she has planned.  I told her that when she feels that way to imagine herself as a tree.  She is rooted, her trunk is stable and strong and-most importantly-there are spaces between her branches so the wind can just blow through.  If a storm comes, she won't be knocked over.
She liked this image so much and it seemed so helpful to her that I thought I would share it here.

Thanks for the +1 on this post!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Antidote for Disillusionment

Remedy for a sore spirit, view this story at Yahoo Video:  Title:  Boss Gives Company to Workers

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wise Words From a Long-term Patient

The woman who talked to me today about how she has learned to manage, what was once a debilitating depression, has been in on-going weekly treatment for a number of years.  Over time, she has come to know herself and, with some trial and error, has learned how to take care of herself  in a way that is effective and also a relief to her family.

Coping with depression:
~When it occurs, I limit myself to 7 days.  If I still feel the same after that time has passed, I will make a life change.  Usually, it has abated by then.
~I don't exacerbate it.  When I feel bad, I don't allow myself to dump more discouraging thoughts upon myself.  So I don't continue to spiral down and feel worse and worse.
~ Continue to function.  ("Fake it 'till you make it")  I fulfill my responsibilities, take care of my child,--- despite feeling somewhat robotlike or, certainly joyless, at times.  Doing this keeps me out in the world, encountering people and new situations, which sometimes helps to change the mood during the 7 days.
~I say to my family what it is that I need at that time.  For example, in that state I am pre-occupied with trying to deal with myself.  So, I don't have much patience nor energy for listening.  I ask them to limit their quests for my attention.
~No externalizing.  For example, when I wake up to find myself depressed, I previously found it convenient to blame men.  However, when I began looking at my history, I realized that I was sometimes visited by depression when I was not even in a relationship with a man.  "I saw that it was not the world shitting on me but how I looked at the world."
~Don't shut out those who care.  I did hurt those close to me before I learned this (when I did do the closing out, that was something else to feel bad about).
~From the movie, Zombieland, I saw that when I learned something I could make a rule and enter it in my journal.  Also, that the rules are not written in stone; they can be amended or changed as needed.

These guidelines came of a long, consistent effort on the part of a person who suffered for years and now is living the majority of her life in a satisfactory state of mind.  When she is visited by depression, she isn't helpless; she has created a personalized program for staying in charge of her life.

Does this woman's story inspire you to try to develop your own self-help list?  What have you come up with?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Celebrating 50

Since beginning on June 26 2009, I have written 50 posts. 
I am very happy about this.  I enjoy knowing that you followers are there.  I have a log from Psychology Today of how many people have looked at the blog from their site and those of their affiliates, I am very interested in the comments I've received and I enthusiastically welcome new readers.
I intend to continue.  More comments will help me to know better what topics would be of interest to you.  Let me know your wishes in that regard and your reactions to the posts I offer.
If you are a new reader, I encourage you to look over the blog from the beginning because it does have a flow to it.  And some posts are follow-ups to previous posts.  Most of what I write about is not time-dependent.
Thank you for reading!
For sharing my thoughts.
And for offering some of yours.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Novel Idea

Guys, have you noticed how women tend to hang out with each other?  They like to be together in small groups; they like one-on-one time---just time together, not apparently, doing much.  Visiting.  Talking.  Sometimes like men, they do activities together---they go shopping together, they run marathons, they play ma jong, but---by and large the motivation for women is simply time together.

So, what's the big draw?  Spending time in one another's company is of great benefit to females.  There is simple comfort being in the company of female friends.  There is talking, yes, but it is a special kind of talking.  While one is sharing a trial or a joy, the others listen.  In that moment, they temporarily take it on.  As a result the speaker feels less alone, receives suggestions regarding problems she's presented or enhancement of happy feelings she's offered.

Of course difficulties can develop between women; all interpersonal relationships have their challenges.  I think it is largely a myth that women compete for men.  Most women friends abide by an unwritten law, again very different from males with each other, which amounts to, hands off  your friends' men.  However, other problems like envy, or feeling excluded or, misunderstood can come up.
Yet, the rewards for maintaining female friendships usually make it worth working through such problems.

The phenomenon of women seeking and demonstrating value on time with other women is so common and enduring that there have now been a few studies conducted trying to answer the question of why.  One result is that this experience causes the release of one of our natural human hormones, a chemical our own bodies make.   It is a feel-good, bonding, calming chemical.  

There are  a minority of men who have been able to tap into this experience, at least in part.  True friendship is posssible between a man and a woman.  This is a relationship wherin the man, who may well think of his friend as attractive, is not angling to get physical with her, whose focus is not on her beauty or sexuality.  He's in it for that other good stuff, described above.  Most men though, have not discovered this option.  Most heterosexual men find women so interesting physically that they don't think of taking that out of the picture in favor of another priority.  
Friendships between men can be wonderful in their own way.  It's just that this is another, not often considered, possibility:  To be friends only, and nothing else, with a woman and to benefit from that would be a novel idea for many men.

UCLA Study on Friendship Among Women
"...when she actually engages in ...befriending, studies suggest that...oxytocin is released which...counters stress.
Friendships among women ...shape who we are and who we are yet to be.  They soothe our tumultuous world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are."
Gale Berkowitz

Friday, February 5, 2010

Compassion for Commuters

1.  Listen to 102.1 FM radio; announcers are not radio personalities and all have pleasant-to-beautiful speaking voices.  They say soothing things like, here is a piece that will calm you if you are stressed.
Their commercials are all in a bunch so you can turn down the sound at that time if you want.  The music is classical.

2.  When other drivers---try to pass you on the non-existent right lane, when drivers in a rush get too close to your car and other cars, the unsolicited sharing of high-volume music, motorcycles with extra loud exhaust pipes, drivers who use the freeway exit ramps to pass cars in stop-and-go traffic on the freeway (while you and many others are cooperatively waiting in line), drivers who use too high a speed in rainstorms, tailgaters, people who turn left in front of you when you have the straight road right-of-way, cars parked so close to your driver's side door (in a parking lot ) that you can't get in that door, pedestrians who walk across the street at night in dark clothes where there is no crosswalk, much less street lights, those in stop-and-go traffic who won't let even one car merge in, irritable drivers who get immediately enraged when you make a genuine mistake------try not to entertain the idea that revenge will help you feel better.  It won't.

3.  Take a long, slow, deep breath.  It will slow down your physiology right away.  Make it a habit.  It can become an automatic self-care action.

4.  Consider the thought that another driver who does something wrong did, in fact, make a genuine mistake.

5.  Take a long, slow, deep breath.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Third Look At How's The Fit

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams."  Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Adult Kid

As children develop, parents (hopefully) do too.  We begin parenthood with a completely dependent being, another human who comes with all human needs and zero ability to meet any of them.  This tiny person is also a mystery.  From these two experiences we go, in a fast 20 years, to a fully independent individual whom we know well.
As we go along we are doing two things; we are gradually, very gradually allowing and encouraging more and more autonomy in the growing child.  An 18 month old will venture out toward the swings in the playground sandbox, only to come running back to mom or dad to 'touch base' before trying again---maybe going a bit further next time.  A 15 year old is still working on this same process, albeit in a different way.  A teenager can be fiercely resistant to a parent trying to influence her values and the next minute want to cuddle up in a blanket with mom and the TV.
Alongside this developmental line, the child and the parents are in an on-going process of learning who this person is.  As the parent watches for talents, notices interests, and looks for aptitudes, the child is driven by curiosity to explore the world, to try new things , to test himself.
As fully functioning adults, these questions have finally resolved although never completely.  We are capable of continuing to grow and change, to develop new skills and to test ourselves.  Under great enough stress, most adults will wish for mom or dad to 'save the day'.  But, by and large, we function on our own.
However, there is a developmental stage that is quite challenging to most parents and that is how to be with a daughter or son who is a young adult but needs help.  This week, for example, I had a man in the office who was quite distressed by his 21 year old daughter who had returned home and was showing a number of signs of a life not going well.  She had signed a lease with a boyfriend she was unsure of, had suffered some abuse from him, and was drinking a lot.  She looked unhealthy.  The only stable part of her life was her work where she was fulfilling her responsibilities.  She also was inappropriately rough with her boyfriend's child and when her dad tried to intervene, reacted to him in a harsh manner.  The dad was alarmed.
This is a delicate situation.  Even if the young adult child is doing well, it is a challenge to maneuver in the relationship, as the parent the child is trying to grow out of.  When there are serious problems such as this, it is difficult.  And, in addition, each person and each relationship is different.  Some people like straight talk, some are more sensitive and require a  subtle approach.  Therapy is useful because all of the parts of such a situation that are unique can be taken into consideration while a way to help is worked out.

A few general suggestions that will probably apply in most cases:

Try to provide guidance without being intrusive.
Be available but not inquisitive.
Keep your judgments and disappointed feelings to a minimum.
Hold to an ultimate goal of true friendship with your grown child.
Remember that your needs and that of the family as a whole must always be kept in mind.

The author, Gail Sheehy has done some innovative thinking on adult developmental stages.  If this is a timely topic for you, it might be worth your time to look at some of what she's written.

Have you already learned from making your way through this type of challenge in your own family?  Please comment on what your discoveries were.