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.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Paying It Forward and Benefactors

Giving with a purpose, generativity, and discovering your natural inclination to give/help others.

Recently I was sitting in a cold, BART station  on a colder cement seat next to a woman who was eating from a bag lunch.  It had been a long day in San Francisco for me and I was tired and hungry.    I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she kept sneaking glances at me-I was just sitting there, still and quiet, waiting for the train.  Then she offered me a tiny red box of raisins out of her lunch bag and she said:  "You enjoy it but then, you do something for someone else.  Okay?"  I agreed.  She then told me she makes a practice of doing this:  I recognized the practice.  It's called paying it forward.
 Related to The Butterfly Effect, paying it forward is more purposeful.  The one who offers the favor expects the receiver to reciprocate with some one else and extracts that promise.  It is purposeful passing it on whereas in the butterfly effect, we do kind acts on faith.  Paying it forward is an effort to make things different in the world.  There is a wonderful film on this topic called Pay It Forward if you are interested in seeing a fictionalized version of how this would actually be acted upon.

The concept of paying it forward is one of many examples of giving with a purpose.  Sometimes we give out of obligation-for a birthday or holiday; we may give because it is called for culturally; gifts are sometimes given to grease the wheels of business transactions, or to enhance an apology.  There are thank you gifts and gifts of reciprocation.  Gifts are a part of many kinds of relationships-between individuals, families, businesses and countries.  Nonetheless, a goal is attached, even if it is simply the loving one of seeing happiness in another.

Erik Erikson, who wrote about human beings as continuing to go through developmental stages throughout life,---not just as children, coined the term "generativity".  Generativity is one of the characteristics of maturity and usually emerges in late life, according to his observations.  This kind of giving, often in the form of charity work, volunteerism, or mentoring, represents the urge on the part of the giver to leave a legacy to the next generation.  It is a wish to help younger people and to offer up and pass on what one has learned, in life or in a particular field of specialty.
There is yet another type of giving, one that has no name as far as I know.  I researched this idea and didn't find much.  It is a recent discovery for me so maybe we are pioneering new territory here---I don't know.  If you recognize this, (or even if you don't, maybe you can create a name for it), let me know.
Here's a story about this kind of giving:  I have a long-time friend whose husband is very successful in the financial world.  I asked him for some help managing my financial matters. This wasn't easy to do because mine are 'small potatoes' in comparison to what he ordinarily deals with (big business clients).  However, he readily agreed.  When I tried to express my gratitude, he graciously said:  "What are friends for?"  I have met with him at his office several times now over the course of a few years.  When I am there, his entire attention is on me and my matters and his staff is at my disposal; I am treated as if I  were no different from his most important client.  He has only done a few things for me as I have been reticent, reluctant to impose on such a generous person.  But there has never been any sign of limits on his part.  He just seems to wait until I ask and then, he helps me. 

Because  I have felt sort of befuddled about how this was occurring in my life, I have put a lot of thought into it.  I remembered that the Chinese culture has a concept about benefactors.  The idea is that we each have the possibility of having a benefactor cross our path in life.  This would be a person who just, in some way, provides you with something beneficial to you, without remuneration.  Sounds like part of an explanation but still...

Then, one day I realized that I do this myself.  I'm not referring here to how I might put my heart out to a client in my practice-above and beyond what I am paid to do as my job.  I am not talking about what I might do for my child.  No, none of that.  I am talking about helping because I can.  Or helping because I can and I've been asked.  Or seeing a need, having the ability to fill that need, and then doing it.  This is giving that has no cost: It does not deplete the giver.

 People who know me as extended family or as close friends will sometimes come to me with a personal conundrum or even a life crisis.  It never occurs to me to not help---I just do it. When I began this blog, I did it because I wanted to offer to the world, what I have learned (and am learning); I wanted to make available to anyone anywhere, who could get to a computer, but did not have access to a private practice therapist, a part of what that experience is.  I put a lot of thought and time into these posts and I am not paid anything for this work.  Some people in my life have wondered aloud to me why I do that.  It's actually quite difficult to explain.  I just feel strongly that I want to make this offer.  And, so I keep doing it. 

  So, it seems that some people have this aspect in gear and some don't.  (Also, some are doing it but aren't aware, as I was).  It would seem a very foreign idea to someone who has not felt the wish to do this.  But, those of you who are doing it, will, perhaps recognize what I have described.  Do you?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Oceanic Experience

Oceanic experience:  Usually brief and unexpected, a feeling of being at one with the world, peaceful, joyous, and compassionate.

"Sometimes the silliest things strike a chord and fill me with hope and leave me laughing...and crying all at once."  Renee Miller

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Simple Lesson on Learning

                                                   Giving yourself the best.
 At Feldenkrais class last night, our teacher (Lauren McLeod) talked a little about the requirements for learning.  Be comfortable, she said.  If your body is in discomfort, your mind will be occupied with that.  If your body is at ease, your mind will be relaxed and open to new information.
~Are you hungry?
~Are you  tired?
~Seated in a good position?
~Good light and temperature?
~Minimal distractions?
~Emotionally calm?
These points are important for children too.  Optimize your child's homework/study environment as best you can to offer the best chance for successful learning.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Your Question of The Day

"What is your most treasured memory?"        

The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, P.h.D.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A No-Brainer

How we learn and tricks for a better memory.      All of us can perceive the world visually, with our sense of hearing, or, by feeling.  However, we each tend to favor one over the others.  Are you a visual person?  You may think sometimes in terms of images.  (You probably enjoy my quirky photographs on the blog!).  Others may have a lot of trouble picturing something in their mind, recalling instructions given verbally, and so on.  "Learn your learning style.  Some people remember best what they see, some what they hear, still others what they experience.  Knowing your learning style helps your memory run at peak efficiency.  To enhance memory, try using all three learning modes.  Write it down.  Say it out loud.  Even act it out.  The more actively involved you are in the process, the more likely you are to remember."
"Recall of a...fact depends on the importance you assign to it.  When you're interested in something, you pay closer attention and your brain 'imprints' on cells that store memory...Pay active attention."                
Anxiety, multi-tasking, some "...medications, poor nutrition, or a sleep deficiency..." may interfere with your ability to concentrate.
  Reading, learning a musical instrument, and playing certain games are known to help sharpen your mind.  A good memory is a sign of high intelligence.  Your neurological health is worth your attention. 
Source of quoted material:  Life Extension magazine


Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Butterfly Effect

"Remember there's no such thing as a small act of kindness.

Every act creates a ripple with no logical end."  Scott Adams

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Iron Mike

                                                   A Story of Transformation
I just caught the last half of an interview with Mike Tyson on the Larry King Show on TV.  It was so interesting to see a living example of someone who has achieved tremendous internal change.  He is quite open about himself and his personal attitudes.  But his changes are also apparent in his demeanor---how he interacted with Larry King, his tone of voice, body language and, of course, in his verbal responses.  He seemed transparent to me, meaning he was genuine and sincere.  I felt the truth in his answers to the questions.  It is worthy of mention, I think, that listening to a person who is simply being straightforward can be fascinating.  After the show, I saw on the Internet many tweets attesting to the same experience I had.

As he is now, I would describe Mike Tyson as a humble, thoughtful, man with inner strength and  a commitment to his own personal development.  Yet, if you review his history, you will see that at this point, he is an example of tremendous transformation.  In his history is great success very early in life (heavyweight champ at age 20), breaking the rules (biting the ears of an opponent), breaking the law (convicted of rape and imprisoned for 3 years), and lots of other violent, outrageous, behavior as well as drinking and drugging abusively and enduring tragedy (the death of his child).  He talked about knowing that he needs "structure" and routine in his life.  This is very telling to a therapist as it indicates a piece of his early development that didn't go well (or some other kind of deficit), and explains some of his acting-out behavior. (Most healthy adults can provide their own structure, internally.) But what is encouraging is that he has identified this, and is now able to design his life in such a way that he has the optimal chance of functioning well and in a healthy manner.
As he is now, he seemed to be simple in his expectations of life.  I am sure that he lives well, based on the earnings and acclaim that he built in his early, fabulously successful, career. Yet, he declared that he feels lucky to be alive and grateful.  His belief is that he should enter into life fully and energetically as long as he lives.  His optimistic view is revealed in his belief that stupendous things can happen to a person if they enter into living wholeheartedly.  He has managed to change a penchant for aggression and violence into an ability to protect himself good-naturedly by joking, being direct, and fending off intrusiveness or insults in a non-provocative manner.  The humility I mentioned earlier is evidenced in his declaration that he is in no position to judge others and that he doesn't.

Mike Tyson is a public figure so you can easily find out more about him if my observations have you intrigued.  But I propose that the wonderful value of watching this interview and, I would imagine any others that have taken place in recent years, is an opportunity to see an example of an evolving individual.

Monday, December 6, 2010

No Denial Here

                  Alcoholism continued, definition and physical effects  

There are types of alcoholism, stages of alcoholism, in addition to the effects of alcoholism, on the alcoholic's personal life and physical health.  As promised, here is my definition of the difference between a social drinker and an alcoholic as well as a listing of some of the effects of overuse of alcohol on the body.

The bottom line with a social drinker is that they can take it or leave it; if someone said to a social drinker that alcohol would never be available to them for the rest of their life, they would just shrug their shoulders and say, "Oh well."  Or, "Oh, that's too bad."  But, it would not be seen as a disaster.  They may have a glass of wine with a dinner out at a restaurant but it is thought of and selected, as a part of the meal.  Social drinkers don't drink alone.  They have champagne at celebrations and enjoy the act of toasting; they may enjoy, occasionally, going out with friends for cocktails.  Alcohol can be enjoyed but is not a central focus.  They may have a nice bar set-up in their home, but the purpose is for entertaining.  If long periods of time go on which don't include alcohol, they don't think about it, they don't miss it.  Alcohol is simply not an issue in their lives.

~Conversely, an alcoholic's life revolves around alcohol:  They find reasons to drink.  They plan for or arrange to, be able to drink.  They pay attention to maintaining the supply of alcohol in their house.  Alcoholics who have progressed further-mostly those who have been challenged about their drinking patterns by others in their life-will begin hiding alcohol.  Drinking will be lied about.
 I once knew a woman who was a 'maintenance alcoholic', meaning she drank a little all the time to keep her blood levels at a certain place (and maintain her altered state); she played tennis as a hobby and would have water bottle containers in her car trunk and in her purse which contained alcohol but she would claim that they were bottles of "tennis water".
Encounters with the law, such as a DUI begin to occur.  They may have problems at work such as being chronically late or missing work or going to work hungover; sometimes this individual will have a co-dependent in their life who covers for them.  For example, the co-dependent may call the alcoholic's workplace and make an excuse, such as, "My husband is ill today and can't come to work."
The alcoholic uses alcohol in place of, that is, instead of, using coping mechanisms.  For example, drinking is often used as a way to avoid addressing a life problem.  An alcoholic will use alcohol to alter their state of mind; note how different this is from ordering wine with the purpose of enhancing a meal.  Often a hallmark of alcoholism is that the drinker shifts once they begin drinking and no longer seem to have the same personality that is usual for them.  This last symptom is very hard on young children of alcoholics.
In contrast to the social drinker, for whom alcohol is just one of a myriad of choices in the world, the alcoholic is, in a way, in love with alcohol.  It can become their primary relationship in the sense that they put it first on their priority list.  This aspect can be very hard on the spouse or primary partner of an alcoholic.  Tolerance issues develop in the alcoholic, going up, up up and suddenly, in advanced stages, precipitously down.  High and increasing tolerance is what is commonly noticed by others.
Eventually, there may be physical addiction.

Effects of overuse of alcohol on the body:
"Brain:  Heavy drinking over many years can cause memory, judgment and learning ability to deteriorate severely.  The alcoholic's personality structure and reality orientation may also disintegrate.
Lungs:  Alcohol has a ...poisonous effect on the lungs."
Heart:  It causes "...irreversible damage to the heart muscle.
Liver:  Cirrhosis...occurs eight times more often in alcoholics than among non-drinkers.
Pancreas:  Excessive use of alcohol causes inflammation of the pancreas.
Small intestine:  Alcohol blocks absorption of various..."  nutrients.
Endocrine Glands:  "Alcohol impairs the function of all endocrine glands.
Sex Glands:  Premature senility, including dysfunction and degeneration of the sex glands, result from alcoholism.  Studies have consistently shown that Shakespeare was right when he observed that drink 'provokes the desire, but takes away the performance.'
Blood:  ...causes anemia...
Infection:  Alcohol lowers the body's resistance to disease...
Bone Tissue:  Alcohol creates...brittle bones.
Hands and Feet:  Alcohol causes poly neuritis..." (quotes from paper drafted by Doctors Hospital)
Alcoholics invariably have vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Part of taking care of yourself is being honest with yourself about your relationship to alcohol.
(Reading suggestion:  Another Chance: Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family)  Clicking on the label, Alcoholism and addiction (on the right on the blog landing page) will give you a list of 14 posts on the topic or in which this topic is mentioned.

Was it interesting to you to think about the differences between a social drinker and an alcoholic?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oh! That First Visit

            Starting therapy  
 Today I was in a medical office for an appointment of my own and the nurse, who had previously asked me for a therapist referral, wanted to say how happy she was with the therapist I had sent her to.
As we talked, she said some things about how difficult it was for her, however, at first.  She said how, in the beginning, she felt unsure about the therapist as a person.  She saw therapy as "a commitment", something she wanted, but, would have to fit into an already busy schedule.  There's the cost to consider also.  And then, of course, the patient-to-be is proposing (to themselves) to offer up very personal information to someone who, at the beginning , is a complete stranger.  All of this can lead to some pretty strong reservations.  If the patient is brand new to the process, that is, has never been in therapy before, with anyone, it is even more daunting to be in that situation for the first time.
Some new patients are so uncomfortable, they just don't return.
And, yet, just yesterday, one of my patients (remember the patient in the I've Lost 38 Pounds post?---that patient), spontaneously said in the midst of the session:  "Oh, it just helps so much just to be able to talk about it."  At the end of the visit she stated:  "It is so important to have a place of your own, where you can go and just talk about anything-whatever is troubling you.  It's my own sanctuary."  And as she left, a heartfelt, "Thank you!".  So, if you stick it out (and sometimes it will not turn out to be the right therapist for you; but, if it is),------what a resource!

Note:  Two related posts are titled, A Healing Relationship and Marriage Counseling: