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.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Absent-Minded Professor

"Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves."  Carl Jung    
 The absent-minded professor is both a lovable and an irritating character.  This is the person who can inspire us with their insights and great ideas and irritate us with their seeming inability to attend to the simplest, most practical matters of life.  These are the ones who have the uncanny ability to foresee an outcome in the future and who can take many disparate parts and put them together, mentally, and come out with a whole---a new concept or theory.  These are the innovators, the ones who can grasp a concept in an instant but who lock their keys in the car trunk and can't remember to feed the dog.  (They are not focused on details.)  This is a brief description of part of Jung's typology, the intuitive function.  Intuition, as he defined it, is a quality we all have to some degree but there are about 50% of the population who lead with this quality.  It makes for a very interesting individual, a person who can always see the possibilities but to their counterpart can seem to be always walking around with their head in the clouds (and they do tend to bump into things a lot!).

The opposite function in Carl Jung's typology scheme is the sensation type.  This is Ms Clean or Mr. Tidy.  These are the ones who seem to be able to organize anything in an instant.  They just seem to know where things should go!  They usually have a good kinesthetic sense in addition to their awareness of the outer physical world.  They are often wonderful cooks, excellent carpenters (good at measuring!), thorough dental hygienists and the list goes on.  They see what is missing, what is out of order, and what's more, they are able to make it right.  (They are focused on details.)  The intuitive type has a great value on this person's seeming magical ability to efficiently dispense with the everyday matters that the intuitive type just can't seem to master.  However, they will be quite annoyed when the sensation type cannot see the forest for the trees.  The sensation oriented person can name each tree and, if they've made it their business to know, will remember the growing requirements of each.  They can verbalize lists of facts in an instant.  But they will not see, as the intuitive (who sees the forest but can't remember for anything, the individual trees that were in it!) does, it's importance to the eco-system of the world, or the poetic beauty of a cathedral of redwoods.  While the sensation person lives in a world of facts, the intuitive person dwells in the world of ideas.

Of course, these two will meet up in the world, may even marry.  Often, we are attracted to what Jung called our own "inferior function".  In other words, since we each are strong in one or the other, we often find it charming and attractive when we encounter the opposite strength manifested in another.  We feel complete when we are together, that is, until we get annoyed...!
Have you met up with one of these characters?  Which one lives in your shoes?
Well, Jung offered us an idea (yes, he was an intuitive type):  Individuate (his word) or grow or mature, i.e. become a more balanced individual by developing your inferior function.  And, I would add, if you are partnered with your opposite type, try to be less irritated and, instead, imitate them; use them as a way to learn how to function more strongly in your lesser used part.

A post on a related topic is titled, Flyn' by The Seat of Your Pants,
Has this post helped to explain something in your life?  
Please share.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


During this last month, visitors to this site have been from--in addition to the U. S., including Alaska-- Canada, China, Australia, France, the U.K., Russia, and Vietnam!
I am very happy to have you here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Successful Students

Parent guidance for helping children succeed in school-elementary to college

The link (above) has a good list of ideas for developing effective study habits.

For young children:  First and foremost, if you want your child to do well in school, a value on education must be demonstrated in the home.  First, do you have it?  Sometimes, as adults, we may find, with some honest self-examination, that we actually have mixed feelings about education.  What were your experiences in school?  If you discover lingering disappointments or resentments, you'll be more effective in supporting your child at school (and do yourself a favor) if you work through those old wounds.
Once you have the foundation of a clear and un-psychologically muddied value on education, it will probably come pretty naturally to support your child's situation.  However, some specific examples are:
~ Read to your kids, regularly.
~Read, yourself.
~Sit with your child while she does her homework or studies.  You can just sit quietly (yes, this takes patience!) and watch or do a sedentary activity of your own.  The point is, you are available and you are showing that the schoolwork is important by taking the time to be there.
~Notice what your child is doing, know what his class is working on but don't do the work for him.  Be a supportive, encouraging , trusting presence while he struggles through it himself.
~Make sure your child goes to school well-nourished and well-rested.
~Keep the school attendance and homework as the child's first responsibility and do not let other events interfere.
~Involve yourself with the school to the degree that you are able.  At least, attend evening events held for parents and be sure to communicate with your child's teacher.  Make sure that your child's teacher knows that this kid has a concerned, observing parent.
~Assist your child, if needed, to develop friendships with children whose families will also be conveying a value on doing your best at school.
~There are so many small moments that portray your message, just be sure what it (that message) is.  If you have ideas in addition to these to share with other parents, please contribute in the comment box.
For Middle School Age Kids:  This is such an awkward time for most kids, the main assistance you can give at this stage is to support self-esteem.  So, do what you can; notice what the youngster is doing right and validate those qualities or actions.  Be there to pick up the pieces when they try something new and fail or get embarrassed or in some way, have a discouraging experience.  Consistently showing that you have faith in your daughter or son and believe that they are a fine person is very helpful at this stage.

Teenagers:  By high school, the teachers expect the students to manage their time, to be able to plan and to keep track of deadlines.  Hopefully, you have, by now, taught your child these things.  So, now your job is to continue to show an interest in his/her schoolwork and friends.  By age 16, in most places, if you are aiming for a college education for your youth, you will be starting to investigate schools and prepare applications.  Most kids will need help with this process.  (If you were not able to attend college yourself, you can learn together how to do this, as you go, or, find a friend who did go to college, to assist).  Once you have narrowed the college choices to three, it would be wonderful to take your child to visit these campuses if at all possible.  If not, visit a local college campus that you can get to easily just to give the child a sense of what a higher education institution is like.
If, for some reason, you are ambivalent about the value of education, here are a few things that are learned in school in addition to "book learning":  planning, deferred goal gratification, striving to reach a goal, how to participate in friendly competition, speaking in public with some degree of comfort, how to research the answer to a question, how much there is in the world to learn, to think critically, to function independently, how to work with people when you get along well and when you don't, how to listen, and how to express yourself in writing are some of them.
"Your education is something no one can ever take away from you!"  quote from my grandmother, Lady Jane Holman Sutherland

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nutrition Note

More on dealing with depression/maintaining your good state of mind

 "We know that vitamin D receptors exist in the brain, and there is evidence that in utero--as the infant is developing-if the mother is vitamin D deficient, the child has a much higher risk of developing schizophrenia later in life.  There are animal studies that have shown vitamin D will increase serotonin levels in the brain.  Therefore it is thought that if you have a healthy vitamin D status (25-hydroxyvitamin D 30-100 ng/mL), it will do the same thing for people:  improve their serotonin levels and improve their mood and feeling of well-being."
Credit:  Life Extension September 2010, interview with M.F. Holick, PhD, MD.

Vitamin D, which our bodies make from sunshine, is in the nutrition news a lot lately.  It plays a more important role in our health than was previously known.  These discoveries are coming about as a result of finding an almost epidemic deficiency of this nutrient in the bodies of people living under certain modern conditions (northern latitudes, cities shaded by tall buildings, regular use of sunscreen & other forms of sun protection).

(some commonly prescribed anti-depressant medications function as serotonin re-uptake inhibitors-attempting to increase the levels of serotonin available in your brain, to improve the mood)

Generally, good health supports good mood.  This is just one specific factor that can fairly easily be controlled.
If you want, you can request a simple blood test from your doctor to determine your personal level of vitamin D.  If it is low, you can improve your health in many ways by supplementing with vitamin D3 according to your doctor's advice or, by judiciously adding a little sun exposure.
An easy way to improve your life!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fear of Food

Eating disorders are not impossible to change.  Sometimes they can be completely cured, sometimes they can be improved or, become more manageable.

I have had a lot of success treating compulsive overeating.  The best public program for that problem is Overeaters Anonymous and the most sensible eating plan is Weight Watchers.
My experience in treating Bulimia is success with long-term, in-depth psychotherapy when the patient is really motivated.  I have seen it happen---self-exploration leading to insight and resulting in less compulsion to do the binging and purging acts.  It's a process but so wonderful to see the relief of those symptoms.
Anorexia is often difficult but far from incurable.  Usually I have found that an in or out-patient program (depending on the severity of the patient's condition), with others who share the same difficulty from the same disease, works well.

A lot of suffering happens in folks who endure these conditions and those who love them.  Here are some books, recommended to me by a colleague who specializes (actually, treats eating disorders only), to help if you or someone you care for is beset by this difficulty in relationship to food:
>Taking Charge of Your Child's Eating Disorder by Pamela Carlton
>How People Recover From Eating Disorders by Riebel & Kaplan
>The Beginner's Guide to Eating Disorders Recovery by Nancy Rolodny
Be well.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Charting Your Course #2

Tips to consider including in your vision/dream board (good for almost everyone)

~  Move.  Do not sit for more than 4 hours straight.  New research has identified this as the tipping point for initiating a cascade of physiological events that lead to metabolic syndrome, the first being the tendency to add fat to the waistline.

~Work.  But, if possible, work for 5 hours a day.  Reason:  Anthropologists think that our ancient ancestors (the hunter-gatherers) worked at those tasks-gathering plant products and hunting animals and fish-, and building fires, cooking, and whatever else they had to attend to, for about 5 hours a day.  So I am proposing that this is probably what we are designed to do and that we are stressing ourselves to continue beyond that amount of time.

 ~Anticipate.  The science of happiness has found that we are happier for much longer and more deeply, about a positive event in our lives (such as a trip, a party, a vacation, an anniversary celebration...etc.) if we plan it ahead, look forward to it and then re-visit it in our memory afterwords.  Seems like daydreaming is a good thing!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


The value of reviewing your personal history

 "Overcoming childhood woes.  Your childhood affects how you handle conflict, react to authority, and take and give criticism and compliments.  For example, as a child, were you considered stupid?  Made to feel guilty for speaking up?  Expected to live with scarcity?  Disliked by your parents?  Were your role models inadequate; for example, did you have a lazy or short-tempered parent?  Solution:  Every time you feel uncomfortable at work, in a memo pad, write the event, your internal response (if there's one), your external response, and what, if anything, you want to do differently next time."  Author unknown.
Reluctance to review the past

Often patients come to therapy but the one thing they don't want to do is reflect on their childhood.  There can be many reasons for this, such as, not understanding the value of that process, fear of re-experiencing emotional pain, a reluctance to critique their parents or family of origin, and so on.

And a growth process can take place without this aspect being included but it eliminates a richness to the experience.  Reviewing your early experiences from the position of adulthood can help you to understand yourself.  The more you understand how you came to be the way you are, the more confident you will become.  Why?  Because you won't surprise yourself.  Also, you won't be afraid that someone else might see something in you that you don't see.
 The thoughts and memories that come to mind if you allow this can also give you the opportunity to have compassion for yourself.  If you had difficulty with something as a little kid, who can have more mercy and ability to be helpful than you, yourself, as an adult?  I once wrote a post here about a person who, as a child, had parents who paid no attention to his interests, to him as an individual.  In fact, they actively suppressed his individual inclinations. (Title of that post, Depression Prevention)    In therapy now, as he is beginning to come to terms with the effect this has had on his life and his tendency toward depression, we are working to repair the deficit and help him to find his passions.
 A recent post on Addiction brings to mind a simple and common example:  In alcoholic families, the children are often disallowed to have feelings.  Of course, they have them, but they cannot be shown.  So, an adult from this kind of background may find themselves having a lot of trouble expressing their feelings, even when it is welcomed, because deep down inside it is experienced as breaking the rules.

On the other hand, some suffer from being haunted by sad or painful or confusing memories from childhood.  This is the opposite of the repression mentioned above.  In this case, sharing, in a conscious manner, with a trusted therapist, can be a relief.  The result of clarifying and enlightening oneself about what happened can be, ultimately, a sensation of feeling more integrated as a person.

In at least one theory of therapy, Ego psychology, it is believed that the earlier the damage took place, the more severe will be the expression of it in adulthood.  This also flies in the face of common wisdom:  Most people think that it doesn't matter much what happens to children before they can talk because they don't remember it.  However, if you understand the logic behind this psychological hypothesis, it makes sense:  The younger we are, the fewer defenses and coping mechanisms we have.  We are exquisitely impressionable as very young beings.

Usually the best therapy takes place when the past problems, the present conundrums, the emotions and the thoughts are all woven together.  Often this is where insight occurs.

(Posts related to this topic:  The Man In The Mirror & Not A Know-it-All)

Have you discovered a new understanding of yourself through introspection?  Sharing your experience of that here might be encouraging to other readers.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Good Chi

Two earlier posts related to this topic:  The first is titled, Comforting and the other is, Happiness and Preferences

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Introducing the topic of addiction.
 An addiction is a pattern, a pattern of self-destructive behavior.  How does it begin?  Maybe a person is in a bad experience and they happen to do something that distracts them---when the next difficult experience comes along, they think of doing that distracting thing again.  Or, maybe the person is actually having a bad time with themselves; whatever triggered it, their state of mind is one they don't like.  They remember something they did previously that altered their state of mind and so they think to try that again.

It begins as an attempt to address a problem of some sort, becomes a habit and turns into an addiction.  Unfortunately, once it becomes a habit, the individual has already begun to cripple themselves.  Grappling with conundrums, dealing with dilemmas, and wrestling with problems is a learning process.  We do become better at problem-solving as we practice.
It isn't only collecting experiences to draw out of memory, but, also, learning problem-solving processes, figuring out how to deal with the attendant emotions and still be able to think through something, and, discovering what works best for the individual.  When one indulges in the habit of avoidance, which is a way of referring to addictive behaviors, one robs themselves of this learning process.  Some theorists go so far as to say this:  An alcoholic's development is arrested at the time they began drinking alcoholically.  In other words, all maturing is interrupted.  So, for example, if you know a 43 year old man who seems to function like a 16 year old, perhaps he has a substance abuse problem.

Addictions can appear in so many forms, sexual compulsivity, a gambling addiction, workoholism, prescription drug abuse, compulsive overeating, and addiction to pornography, to name some.  It is something that can happen to anyone.  The sad irony is that any addiction was begun as an attempt to make things right in some way.  Of course, it ends up undermining all of life, even the parts that were good.  Also, there is usually collateral damage---that is, people in close relationships with the addict find themselves in pain.

If you find yourself turning to a chemical or unrelated activity when you feel any way that you don't like or when you are in the midst of a challenging or distressing life event, take notice.  It is usually better to struggle through the difficulty without alteration or distraction.
Persevere through the bad to preserve the good.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Just for Fun

Sharing a delight from my day today.
                  Bees having a party on a Magnolia flower petal on the tree outside my office.