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.

Monday, August 29, 2011

School Refusal

Some families have a child who has a problem attending school.

Here is a brief recognition and overview of this problem that is a tremendous challenge to the families who find themselves faced with it: A child who cannot or will not actively participate in school.  It is stressful for parents  because they worry about the child's future.  The problem can be significant and effects, not only the child's educational/academic future but also their emotional and social development.  These are long-term effects.
Of course, like everything I address on this blog, there are always exceptions.  Some kids will do fine with an alternative source of education.  But, by and large, not attending school is a sign of a disturbance in the family or an undiagnosed problem of the child's.

According to G.B. Haarman, Psy.D., LMFT, there are ..."four significant factors in school refusal
  • emotional sensitivity
  • lack of parental awareness
  • concurrent antisocial behaviors
  • incomplete academic work"
Sometimes the reason behind the behavior is anxiety or depression, difficulty socializing, ADHD or other learning disorders.
Solutions sometimes involve a support plan and encouragement by the parents and teachers or other school personnel, together.  Sometimes working with a family therapist will help.  Sometimes a personal tutor will be useful and supportive.
Children need to be able to relax.  Children need to have friends.  Children need loving help with getting their homework done (not the discipline and punishment route many families take).

Occasionally a parent will not have, themselves, the knowledge to help their child with their schoolwork.  In this case, sometimes, just demonstrating a value on education and being a comforting, encouraging presence for the child while they do their work is effective.  Often, high school students who are in the academically talented program at their own school, will be available to hire for tutoring.  Younger children usually respond very well to this and will work hard for a teenager whom they will probably look up to.
Facilitate a good relationship between your child and his/her teacher---that can make a huge difference.

I wish you parents all the best as you move to help your child succeed.

Has this come up in your life or the life of your family?  What happened?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Paula's Five Communication Steps

The basic process requires these 5 steps

1.  Identify what it is that you want to say to the other person.
This is not as easy as it sounds.  It often requires introspection (see the earlier post, Seeing Your Self).  The test of whether or not you really have it is this:  If your statement is about what the other person is doing wrong, you haven't got it.
If you make a blaming or accusatory statement, all you will accomplish it to provoke the other person's defenses.  It needs must be about you and come from your true inner self.

2.  Say it.
What can become a real problem for some people is that they bottle things up.  Do we have to overlook some things in our relationships?  Yes.  Of course.  No friend, lover, relative, or co-worker is going to be perfect or perfectly suited to you.  You have to let some things go by in favor of staying on good terms.  But if you determine that something must be said, that it is not going away (for you), then it is a good idea to make a habit of speaking.  Don't go silent.

3.  The other person has to listen.
So, if you are the initiator, try to get them at an optimal time and place.  If you are the receiver, listen; don't interrupt, don't turn away, don't argue, really listen.  If you care about the relationship, hear them out. 

4.  Follow up.
If the issue requires a change on either person's part, make the change or changes.  Do your best.  Not some temporary effort, thinking you'll just do it until this blows over, not some partial effort that isn't sincere; really make the change if you've agreed to do that.

5.  Notice.
If you are the initiator and the other person is attempting to change their behavior, notice it and give them credit.  Remember adults (generally) change slowly and with difficulty (see the earlier post, Unfinished Business).  The change you see may not be as you envisioned or it may be incomplete or seemingly inadequate.  But you must acknowledge that the other person cares enough to try, to try something that isn't easy and takes conscious effort---for the sake of the relationship you two have.

Communication is complicated and full of nuances.  Remember that something that you may say or do can have an effect on someone else that you didn't intend.  If you are often off-handed in your communication style, start noticing how your remarks land.  It could be enlightening.

Please respond with your own comment

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Relationship Recovery

Relating to others can be a de-stressor
 Do you have someone you can really confide in?  Being able to talk freely, without self-consciousness or self-censoring, is an opportunity.  It is an opportunity for stress-lowering.  Good things can happen to you when you have a companion who listens well:  You can discharge pent up feelings; you can share an idea you're excited about or an accomplishment you're proud of; you can say what you are sad about and receive some sympathy; you can layout a plan for feedback; you can learn about yourself; you can experience a sense of relief.  A good listener is a treasure---There is a person who can help you reduce your stress.  This is one of the things therapists do for their patients routinely.  Sometimes a patient comes in and just wants to lay out all the things they've been harboring in their mind and the time and place have been set aside for them to do that.  It helps people feel better even if that is all they do in a particular session.  If you have someone in your personal life---a friend, or a relative who is capable of patiently and attentively listening and whom you can trust, you are fortunate; confide in them-it will be good for you.
Who are the people in your life that you enjoy being with?  Call those people.  Arrange a visit.  Visits with friends in difficult times are relaxing.  Even if you don't talk about what's troubling, it is still helpful, just spending time with a friend.  It doesn't have to be an elaborate arrangement.  It can be simple, like meeting for coffee, or taking a walk together.  Make it easy for both of you.  But, make a point, to see those people who boost your positive energy, with whom you feel comfortable, who you genuinely like.  Friends can help you reduce your stress.

Feeling liked and accepted is stress reducing. 
Laughter is the best medicine, as the saying goes and it is good for lowering stress - which may help prevent the need for medicine!
If you neglect coping with the stress itself, the detrimental effects can be cumulative.  Interrupt the hassles, upsets, fears, and pressures with some time hanging out with friends and then give yourself an extra boost by being grateful for them.  You will feel rejuvenated.
Hugs:  Give and get them; affection is relaxing.
Forgiveness and, if possible, coming to a resolution in disputes with others reduces  the
stress of disappointment and resentment that you may harbor in your relationships with others.
"Some of your greatest pleasures in life and some of your worst experiences in life involve relationships.  Few things can lift your spirits like being with someone you love.  Few things are more damaging to your spirit than relationships that bring constant tension and strife."---Adrenal Recovery Kit by Ortho Moleculars.
   Let your time with your dear ones leave your mind as quiet as a still lake.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Blog Note

Welcome to our two new members, Jean Rhea and Person at the Centre, who have just joined A Therapist's Thoughts.  I am happy to have you here!

Friday, August 19, 2011


An aspect of compassion
 Sometimes a simple list of words can be used to focus your meditation.  These words are states of being that contribute to being able to be compassionate toward others and, even, toward yourself.                                                          Calm~Serene~Tranquil~Peaceful
There are many meditation suggestions in this blog.  Or, perhaps you'd like to design your own meditation.  Maybe you'd like to make your own list of words-a list to comfort you, a list to remind you of your goals, or a list of positive self-reflection.  I have a client who from time-to-time makes a card which she keeps with her to reinforce something she wants to keep in mind.  You could make one too and keep it in your pocket or bag.  "For thousands of years meditation has been practiced in the East as a tool for inner peace...There are as many meditation techniques as there are traditions.  Mostly, the discipline involves practices of breathing and visualization techniques.  The effects of regular meditation have been well documented by studies.  Its benefits include lowered blood pressure, less heart disease, decreased chronic pain, and increased mental clarity...Start meditating today and feel your tension melt away."   Dr. Maoshing Ni 
A related post is:  A Game Plan 

Stressed Out!!!

     It's About the Journey, Not the Destination

 Rush, rush, rush!!!  Hurry, hurry.  Get it right.  Don't forget.  Keep going.  Be on time.  Feeling:  Angry.  Pressured.  Wistful.  Envious.  Worried.  Tired.  Does any of this sound familiar?  
How about this as a sample workday:  Get up with the alarm clock whether you're still tired or not.  Shower and dress.  Make breakfast because studies show that people who eat breakfast are leaner.  Make lunch because it saves money and time (can work at desk).  Lay out the complicated supplement regimen (an effort to stave off the physical symptoms that are starting to creep up).  Jump in the car for the commute-traffic, people doing dangerous things with their cars in order to inch ahead, tension everywhere. 
Make it to work on time---whew! Work 8 hours, work through lunch, sitting for too many hours, trying to please your boss, trying to calm your subordinates, trying to  have decent interactions with your peers, feeling the competition, feeling impatient, noticing deadlines.  Eat cookies someone put in the break room--feel guilty.  
Back to the commute:  On the road with a lot of grumpy, worn out, not alert drivers.  Tense, trying to make it home safely.  Pick up the kids.  In the door, have one too many drinks in an effort to relax.  Get dinner on, go for a run (exercise regimen), try to make it to the community meeting that you know is so important.  Prepare kids for tomorrow.  Fall into bed.  Can't sleep, too wired up.  Sleeping pill.
Does this sound anything like your workday?  So many people are living like this now.  This is why we have so much research being done and so many articles being written on stress reduction.
Our bodies are actually built to react to stressors.  Humans have always faced stressors.  The problem to us, physically, is when the stress is unremitting.  If we can face a stressor, go through the challenge, and then recuperate---no problem.  However, day after day like the one described above can lead to high blood pressure, headaches, digestive problems, chronic back pain, and worse.
"Here's how it works in your body:  ...When you're faced with a major stressor,..."  "...a hormone ...signals your adrenal glands to release the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn gets your adrenaline cranked up (adrenaline is the fight-or-flight hormone).  All of this is fine and good for a while (the increased heart rate and blood pressure get you away from any predator), but if the stress doesn't stop, this flood of chemicals turns against you---compromising your immune system, exhausting your adrenal glands, throwing your cholesterol levels out of whack, and causing you to crave sugar and syrups that age you....And guess what?  Financial stresses and work stresses aren't onetime muggers,...chronic stress has real potential for pummeling your insides." (from the book YOU Being Beautiful by Roizen and Oz)
Information about how destructive on-going stress is to us physically and, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, abound.  So, rather than go on about that here,---let's shift to, what can (realistically) be done about it:

  • Small things that you enjoy; keep them around; a collection of baseball cards that you can pull out of your desk and peruse, daydream for a couple of minutes?  Like flowers?  Studies have shown that colorful flowers boost mood and have a relaxing effect.
  • Break up your tasks.  If you work repetitively at one task, forcing yourself to continue until it's finished, you will bore, tire and overtax yourself; if you can't take a breather, at least shift from one task to another so you have some variety in your activity.
  • Try not to use food as a drug, to get relief from feeling overextended.  Eat foods that you like which are also good for you.
  • If you have to make a major change (such as moving or changing to a new position at work), help yourself with the transition:  Familiarize yourself with the new location or new duties as far in advance as possible.  Give yourself some time to be sad about what you are leaving behind.  Encourage yourself to think positively about the new home or job.
  • Caffeine is not a bad thing.  In fact, there are some good things about tea and coffee (anti-oxidents, for example), but just use it in moderation. 
  • Therapy can be very helpful for "venting" as one of my clients put it, or, helping you to design a set of small changes which can work for you as stress busters.
If your job can be personally meaningful, challenging, and offer some autonomy (all stress-lowering), great.  But, if that is not your situation, see if there is some part of your own work situation where you can feel in control.
Every Yoga class ends with S'avasana which is resting flat out
on your back, not sleeping, but consciously relaxing and taking a time out.

Monday, August 15, 2011


This Blog

Linked From Here
This Blog
Linked From Here

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Linked From Here

 I am publishing this earlier post again because there have been a couple of searches for information on self-reflection/introspection and the inability to do this.  Another post that is relevant is called Unfinished Business:


Seeing Your Self

Self-observation is key to personal growth.  That is the ability to stand outside yourself, outside your own experience and see, with objectivity, what you do.  I will give you two examples, one where the person has this capacity and is using it (it is sometimes referred to as "the observing ego") and another example of a person who has not developed this ability.
The first is about two parents having a conversation, discussing their grown child and her boyfriend.  In their conversation, they say nice things to each other about him.  After the talk ends, one parent is reflecting on it and realizes that, since they both know that their daughter is serious about this man and they love her, they are each trying to find things in him to admire and value; they are working at incorporating him into their family matrix.  This only became conscious after the fact, when the one parent saw in her mind, a mini re-play of that part of the exchange and recognized what they had been doing.
The second example is one of a person in late middle-age who feels lonely and disappointed.  Most of the people in his life who should be close to him, are not.  One after another, the people in his family and friend group have distanced themselves from him.  It isn't that he is a bad  person.  In fact, he does a lot of favors for others.  However, he has  problems of his own that infringe on his relationships:  He is moody and also, sometimes says insensitive, inappropriate, or harsh things to others.  As a result, his relatives and friends have learned to be guarded around him and the one thing he most longs for, closeness with others, eludes him.  However, he has never been inclined to wonder, since this seems to be a pattern in his life, if he, himself, might have anything to do with it.  He does not notice his own behavior.  He simply blames the other person or the circumstances and goes on, endlessly repeating the same mistake.
Sometimes questioning yourself can be a good thing.If you have an observing ego but haven't paid much attention to it, you might try to be more aware of those little observations of yourself when they come to mind.  You can develop this capacity with a little attention to it.
It is one way that you, yourself, can make your life better.
  • Have you been noticing what you are doing?
  • Do you perceive any patterns in your behavior?
  • Do you like what you see?
  • Is there something you'd want to change?   Are you learning about yourself?


Friday, August 12, 2011

Natural Healing

Another encouraging suggestion

The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.

Joseph Campbell

Monday, August 8, 2011

The If-Then Solution

 A practical tip for you, from my colleague
The If-Then Solution to Problem Solving by Nell Collins, LCSW is worth taking a look at.  She gives us a way to think so that we don't let our good plans for ourselves get sabotaged.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Our Uncertain Situation

We Live in Ambiguity
As certain as we are here now, we truly do not know what tomorrow will bring.   We function based on an educated guess but what we all know is that, we really don't know.  A lot of us try to pretend, to ourselves, that we know.   We do things to safeguard the future to try to make it as predictable as possible.  We know we will die but many of us try not to know that and, indeed, we can't know when or how.
A certain amount of denial is necessary, I suppose.  How would we function without it?  For example, we can't think every time we get into our car to go somewhere that we are in charge of a 2 ton weapon.  We'd never head out for anywhere!  Who would take the chance!  The current film, The Tree of Life seems, to me, to try to address or at least display this uncertainty in part.
Here is another offering on this subject:
September 19, 2012
It’s not impermanence per se, or even knowing we’re going to die, that is the cause of our suffering, the Buddha taught. Rather, it’s our resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for that is freedom—freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human."  Pema Chodron
Sometimes people think that therapists are weird or therapists are different from ordinary people or, even, that therapists have magical powers.  Actually therapists have families, and problems, and bills to pay, and good luck and bad luck, and health issues and schedules and pets and so on, just like everyone else.
The one way that we may be different is in being more able to or, perhaps, more accustomed to, sitting in the ambiguity.     We have to learn how to not always have an instant answer for everyone.
We have to try not to decide for a client what is right for them.  For the most part, we do not tell people what to do.  We have to learn to position ourselves in the middle of another person's ambivalence or two-horned dilemma and see both sides. (You may notice that this is part of what makes a discussion of your problem with a therapist different from your discussion of it with a relative or friend.)   We have to be able to stay there with the patient while the patient struggles with their effort toward resolution. 
Sometimes our role requires us to sit with someone while they suffer.  Sometimes a therapist so wants to save that person or, at least relieve them of their pain in the moment,---of their sadness, with comfort.  But, that's just what it would be, momentary.  And, in so doing we would rob them of possible progress toward an insight.
We help people toward integration by staying with them and helping them stay with, and not avoid, their issue.  We are facilitators; we try to help our patients find their own way.
We tolerate what may ordinarily be uncomfortable so that the patient has a better chance of facing their own reality.
Here is a lovely quote on this topic, written by Tom Kelly, MSW, called Learning to Live with Not Knowing:  "Jung's concept of individuation is often misconstrued as striving for a nirvana-like state of bliss.  In truth, individuation---the process through which we form our own personalities

apart from others---is anything but a comfortable journey into wholeness.  Our psyche requires that we go beyond the familiar to confront the unknown in the world and the unknown parts of ourselves.  The challenges we face are giving up the illusion of control, developing a living and vibrant relationship with our own psyche, and learning to live with not knowing."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Art in the Park

                   A rare chance to see fine art that has such renown

Right now there is an exciting, fascinating art exhibit in the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.
It is titled:  Picasso:  Masterpieces from the Musee' National Picasso, Paris.

This exhibition contains 150 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints from the artist's personal collection and shows some from each phase of his extraordinary, and long career.

  If you are anywhere near San Francisco and are interested at all in art, I recommend this as a delightful, possibly once-in-a-lifetime experience.