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, January 31, 2011

The Healing Practice of Compassion

Keeping beauty in your life

 "We know soul is being cared for when our pleasures feel deeper than usual, when we can let go of the need to be free of complexity and confusion, and when compassion takes the place of distrust and fear."
Thomas Moore

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Game Plan

Posts related to this one:  Wise words From A Long-Term Patient, Stress-Reducing Methods, and a Little Lottery Win Each Day 

 How about helping yourself by preparing for the inevitable.  The inevitable being, there will be times that are not the best.  You may just feel down in the dumps one day, for no apparent reason.  The stressors in your life may reach a point where you feel overwhelmed.  Or, perhaps, you do not feel well for a specific reason---something has gone wrong, you have a thorny problem, or you've sustained a loss.
In any case, doesn't it make sense to put a plan in place in advance of something going awry in you or in your life?  This means that you have things ready to go to when you feel bad.  Once you already feel bad, it is much more difficult to figure out how to help yourself.
So, how do you begin to make this source of sustenance for yourself?  First, just begin  noticing the things that are particularly nourishing (psychologically) for you.  This will be quite individual.  No two people find the same things to be sustaining.  We have discussed the difference between introversion and extroversion, as defined by Carl Jung, in earlier posts; it's an easy example of a sort of broad-brushstroke-difference.  Some people will find it relaxing and encouraging to be with others, in a social situation, or, at the very least, out in the public, at a coffee shop or wherever there is activity and people.  On the other hand, some will find time to themselves a relief and a way to recuperate.  This is a basic propensity you will want to know about yourself.  (which way is your natural inclination)
~But, what else?  What can you do?
  • Does music help you?  Make a CD of happy music---music that makes you feel especially good.
  • Do words inspire you?  I have a list of words that put me in a positive frame of mind; it is ever-changing, but here are a few of those on my current list:  health, beauty, spirituality, counseling, personal growth, insight, light, rested.
  • Most people find that physical activity raises the levels of good-feeling chemicals in their brain, so a work-out, (probably when you least feel like it!), would be very helpful.
  • Robert Sapolsky,PhD,  who has been studying stress for many years, has recently found that the affiliative individual in a group (work?  family?  board position? etc.) has lower levels of stress hormones in their system than those who behave in an "alpha" manner.
  • Pay attention to your body signals, just to be sure something is not amiss physically.
  • Have you found certain books that really ring true for you?  I have.  I keep them in a special stack, for comfort if I need it.
  • Some people find that a practice of meditation works as a balancing factor and serves to prevent or reduce the incidence of feeling down.  "A regular practice of meditation affects everything in your life for the better."  Tom Clark, LCSW
  • Listen to your self-talk:  Are you repeating, automatically, in your own mind, self-denigrating thoughts?  Stop them.  Use kind words when you speak to yourself.
  • Do you have a life plan?  Review it; get yourself back on track.
  • "Stop paying attention to something no good or not right.  Pay attention to things that are good or right."  Tom Clark
  • When good things happen, it is worth taking the time to record them---in your calendar, as I mentioned I do (see the post titled, Reverse Charting), or in a journal, or even make a special log that you keep along with your other items that are set up for you to help yourself when things get tough.
  • Take a long, slow, deep, breath---it always helps.
  • Review your accomplishments.  Why not?  You worked for them---reflect on them to give yourself a boost.
  • Dress up.  Some people find they feel better when they look well. 
Whatever works for you, as long as it doesn't detract from anyone else; find those things.  Have them at the ready.  You know there'll be a time when you need some support.  Live with the reassurance that your personal retreat with your uniquely helpful items is there, at the ready.
Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Your Vitality

 See the posts Mindfulness and Paying It Forward for related content

"If you are not spending all of your waking life in discontent, worry, anxiety, depression, despair, or consumed by other negative states; if you are able to enjoy simple things like listening to the sound of the rain or the wind; if you can see the beauty of clouds moving across the sky or be alone at times without feeling lonely or needing the mental stimulus of entertainment; if you find yourself treating a complete stranger with heartfelt kindness without wanting anything from him or her ... it means that a space has opened up, no matter how briefly, in the otherwise incessant stream of thinking that is the human mind.  When this happens, there is a sense of well-being, of alive peace..."  Eckhart Tolle

Sunday, January 23, 2011



 "Give yourself the gift of spaciousness and learn to live more fully in each moment.  Come home to yourself - now is the only time to live your life.  There really is no other time but now."  Author unknown

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Your Question of The Day

A regular feature of the blog, a question to ponder
 "Do you think your friends would agree with one another about the kind of person you are?  How much energy do you spend trying to favorably impress other people?  If you were completely unconcerned about what others might think, what sorts of things might you do?  How do you feel when people like you because they think you are someone you are not?"

Search for the book of questions by gregory stock
The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, PH.D.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Subtracting to Add

Joan Zweben, PhD, in her presentation at Herrick Hospital Grand Rounds, offered some suggestions for folks with substance abuse problems to try and, in addition, some information about treatment outcome findings.

1.  First, ask yourself if you are concerned about your drinking (or street drug use, or prescription drug use).  And in what ways is it a problem to you.
2.  Reflect on when life was actually going well and what is different now.
3.  Look for a role model, someone who's living a good, gratifying life, sober.
4.  Try "sobriety sampling".  Do experiments with abstinence:  Subtract something out (assuming you are using several substances) and see what changes-in you or in how your life goes.  Keep a log of what you didn't use and what happened.
5.  Find an empathetic therapist with whom you feel free to discuss both the pros and cons of continuing your current use of chemicals, unchanged.  It should be a collaborative effort.

~It is known that, even after long abstinence, recurrence  can occur.
~The longer people stay in treatment, the better they do.
~High anxiety will precipitate relapse.  (Work with a therapist on handling your anxiety.)
~If you use any drug, even if it's not the 'drug of choice', it elevates relapse risk.
~You have to be stable in recovery from the addiction, before you can work in therapy on trauma.
~The two-pronged enhancement  for maintaining change is,---A process for personal development that is without financial constraints, and, A support community---this is best found in 12-Step Programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, etc.

Dr Zweben's Stages of change are:
`Pre-contemplation (unaware of the source of the problems in their life)
`Contemplation  (considering the possibilities of what to do)
`Reparation (making small changes)
`Action  (full-hearted commitment to change)
`Maintenance  (lifestyle changes to support sustained recovery)

If this is an issue for you, there is much reason for optimism.  Many people have managed to shift their formerly destructive relationship with a mind-altering substance and to discover a satisfying life in recovery.  Much has been learned about addiction; the success formulas are available.

Other posts related to this topic are:  Addiction,
When Firewater Causes Conflagration, and
No Denial Here

So far (5/2012), this post has been received an incredible 672 visits---and counting.  Do you have any comments or questions about addiction, alcoholism, drug abuse, anything related?

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Heartwarming Project

Whenever I see a service dog on the job, I feel gladdened.  It is such a terrific help to the blind person or the deaf individual or to someone with a seizure disorder and to folks with other disabilities.  Children over the age of ten are also qualified for this type of assistant.  The addition of such a specially trained dog into the lives of those affected with this type of problem can also be a relief and great help to the family of the disabled person as they can be a bit less vigilant; there is someone else watching their incapacitated family member.
From paying attention, over the years, every time I happen to see one of these animals on duty, I have come to be absolutely convinced that the dog is happy, even proud, fulfilling its position with its dear friend.  They know what they are supposed to do and seem quite gratified to be able to execute those tasks.
If you want to know more about these specially trained animals, Paws With A Cause trains assistance dogs nationally in this country for people with disabilities and provides lifetime support while encouraging independence.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Art of Intimacy

"We ask you to be an artist in your life as well as a craftsman of your life.  We ask you to experience your own capacity for choice, for integrity, for acceptance, for attentiveness, for risk-taking, for presence, for naturalness, for participation, for surrender, for reciprocity, for playful engagement, and for creativity.
In the intimate experience, our 'seeing' happens in the presence of the other.  It requires no looking or thinking but occurs directly; it is experiential.  ...  It is the most meaningful and courageous of human experiences."  Malone & Malone

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Unfinished Business, Third in Series

"...the most powerful and profound awareness of ourselves occurs with our simultaneous opening up with another human...."  Malone & Malone

 Unfinished business has been a popular topic here and with good reason; it is so critical that we try for transparency, especially with ourselves.  (If you have not been following this series, please see the two posts, Unfinished Business and Feelings, for background to this post).  There are, of course, small glitches in our awareness of ourselves but, on the other hand, sometimes an unconscious conflict can affect the entire course of an adult life.
The so-called fear of intimacy is one that can ruin all or most of your relationships and prevent you from enjoying true closeness with another human being.  This was one of those topics that got a lot of press in the field of psychology for awhile; when that happens, an idea can begin to sound trite.  But, in this case, that criticism is unfounded.  The fear of intimacy exists and interferes with marriages, friendships, and parent-child relationships.
So, what does intimacy between two people look like?  It requires trust, of oneself and of the other.  It includes immediacy, meaning that you interact with that person in the present and without guile.
Risk, emotional risk and vulnerability are a part of the experience because you cannot control the course of the interaction nor the outcome.  It will sometimes be emotionally painful.  But, the joy that is possible is unparalleled.
What it is not is,---guarded, defended, withdrawn, retreated, skeptical, dishonest.
It can be fun, exciting, and bonding.  It erases loneliness.
And yet, this is one of the most often avoided human experiences.

How do you even know if you are preventing yourself from enjoying emotional intimacy?  Some of the signals might be, for example, people complain about how difficult it is to make a meeting date with you.  Maybe others say you don't allow affection unless you initiate it.  You can't see anyone else until you have yourself perfectly groomed and ready or, another version of that, no guests without your house being immaculate.  You can't do much on the spur of the moment-you must know what you are doing way in advance.  You accept invitations and then just don't show up.  Maybe you are in a loving, intimate relationship and you cause a fight whenever things get good.  When having the most fun with your partner you can suddenly , inexplicably, shut down, not even aware you are doing it; you have a partner who looks puzzled and hurt.  You notice that you feel trapped when a friend or lover tries to talk frankly with you about your relationship with them.  There are a million ways this can be manifested.  Look for it, in yourself and others. You will begin to find lots of examples, I'm sure.

So, why?  Why does a person deprive themselves (and their loved ones) of this deep human need?  Because it is a little scary to be in an emotionally intimate relationship. You might find yourself worrying:  What will happen if I lose this person?  I'll be devastated.  Or you find your own activities being interrupted by thoughts of that person, maybe missing them.  To stay in this exquisite position of feeling loved and loving, one must tolerate a bit of shakiness here and there.  It is an adventure, the future becomes a mystery and you just have to buy in for the ride---not so easy to do.  But people who have the courage find great happiness.

Where does the unconscious sabotage of this delightful level of reciprocity come from?
 It comes from unfinished business.  When we get hurt, we usually say to ourselves:  Well!  I won't ever let that happen again.  And, then, in the hopes of  constructing a magical suit of armor against the vicissitudes of life, we shut down a part of ourselves.  That part is no longer available for experiencing or sharing.
Some individuals have had unfortunate childhoods such as being the member of an alcoholic family:  In that situation, the children experience a lot of unpredictability and sometimes grow up to be adults who want to have everything under control.  It's understandable---all of the various reasons are.  They make sense when they are set up.  The problem is, they don't make sense for the rest of life.

So, here you can see why it is so vital that you (we, each of us) take responsibility for ourselves.  For now and the future, keep up with yourself:  As I said before, don't stuff it when something disturbing happens.  Don't let wounds fester.  Clear things up as you go, even if it is just within your own thinking process.  And if you suspect that the past is interfering with you being your optimal, essential, real self in the present---which I hope you can see from these visits to this topic, is quite common---take yourself to a therapist or begin journaling in earnest, or join a self-help group, or start one!  Read things like this blog and do your own introspection; if you don't have access to a therapist, you can still figure out a lot on your own.  It starts with being honest with yourself.

For an in-depth read on this topic,"The Art of Intimacy" by Thomas Patrick Malone, M.D. & Patrick Thomas Malone, M.D.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"...two lines to guide us." Alexander McCall Smith

     A beautiful idea you might like to consider

" If equal affection cannot be / Let the more loving one be me."

W.H. Auden

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

                                           How to keep yourself on track

 Jokes are made about so-called, New Year's Resolutions because they are always made with such sincere good intentions and are notorious for soon becoming broken promises to oneself.  So, making a list of resolutions for yourself for 2011 is not a bad idea; it is an effective tool for self-review.  But it may not be so effective for reform!
Self-correction is another matter.  I think we all need to do self-correction.  By that I mean correct our mistakes, especially, if they cause harm to others.  How to do this:
1.  Self-observe
2.  Weigh the behavior that happened (or is about to happen) and make a judgment call of it
3.  Perform the correction
Here I will use myself as the example.  I am a fairly introverted person by nature (see post on introversion & extroversion titled, Shyly).  If I didn't have a good dose of introversion in me I wouldn't be able to spend the time by myself, thinking, researching and writing this blog that is necessary.  Maybe you already figured that out.  Nonetheless, over the years, I have developed very good social skills.  In fact, a friend recently described me as "outgoing".  I had to laugh when I heard that. 
Still, I will never have the easy, natural warmth of an extrovert---those people who just know automatically how to put others at ease, how to make a joke at the right time, how to draw people in, socially.  (They are a real asset at a party...!)
So, last night, I got drawn in, at a family gathering, to an unfortunate conversation, one that made others unhappy.  One person left the room.  (I didn't take the hint).  Until someone actually left to go home, I stayed embroiled in this conversation.  It wasn't an argument or anything contentious.  We were just talking about an enterprise she had launched that she didn't feel was going well.  I was listening, reflecting, and trying to make suggestions.  I felt very sympathetic.  But, it wasn't a good process for her because as she went on, discharging about her disappointment, she became more and more despondent about it.  The entire tone of the visit went spiraling down for everyone.

This morning I wrote a note to the one who left the room, apologizing and declaring that it would not happen again.  I also told the one who had left to go home, that I had realized later how bad that was for everyone, that I shouldn't have done it, the reasons why, and how I wouldn't be doing that again.
I had good intentions but, in this case, that wasn't enough.  I meant well, certainly not to cause a disturbance for anyone---these are all people I love.  But, still, that is what happened.
How did I know?  After I got home I did this:
I reflected on the visit.  I noticed that I had a bad feeling inside myself about it.  I reviewed in my mind that long, unhappy exchange and realized that, not only was it unproductive but that it had generated bad energy.  I then was able to re-think this woman's problem and realize there was a light at the end of the tunnel that I hadn't seen when I was hearing so much negativity.  At that point, I had two things, regret (have to do something about that) and a new perspective (will change future behavior).
Self-correction,------very important to be willing to do this.  We all make mistakes.  I have spent most of my adult life studying human intrapsychic conflict and interpersonal conflict/dynamics.  And, yet, I got carried away, missed all the cues around me, didn't check in with my internal barometer, just stayed immersed until a visit became irretrievable.  Anyone can make a mistake. Making a mistake is not a crime!  But!   You must self-correct.
If you begin to make this a habit, you won't need New Year's Resolutions.

What do you think of this idea?  Please comment-