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, February 24, 2012

What's Your Offer?

How You Present Yourself to Others Tells What Kind of Relationships You Will Have

What do you say to others---with your body language, your tone of voice, the way you dress, how you greet someone, what you talk about and all the other aspects that go into how you involve yourself with others?
These behaviors are affected by how you see yourself; how you feel about yourself will determine, in large part, how you engage with other people.  If you have a problem with yourself, such as a poor self-image, you will be likely to experience some problematic relationships in your life.  Sometimes when it seems like someone else is giving you trouble, you, yourself are actually the source of the problem.  If you think that your self-concept is contributing to unhappiness, it's a good reason to go to a therapist.
  • If I feel I am no good, I will hesitate to seek out others as friends...I will also tend to repulse overtures to friendship made by others (even subtly), because I feel unworthy.
  • Conversely, if I see myself as a growing person, I will take initiative in interpersonal transactions
  • If I see myself as weak and needy, I will probably present myself to others as a dependent person (and thus tend to attract co-dependent people).
  • If I see myself as riddled with problems and coping poorly, I may expect others to become my helpers.
  • If I feel good about my own strengths and resources, then I am free to accept others with no added baggage. 
  •  If I  like to be in control, I will probably attract dependent types.
  •  If I like to be the star, I will  draw people who like to stay in the background.  
  • If I am clear about my values, I will attract like-minded people.                                                                                                            
 (some of the bulleted ideas were written by Gerard Egan and modified by me and some, I wrote; can you think of others?)
 These snippets of how a person may feel about themselves show you how your own self-image can affect who you attract into your life and how those relationships develop.  The other person has their own set of personal circumstances, for sure, but it is the interaction of the two that creates the relationship for good or for ill.

Maybe they can start you thinking about yourself and what you bring to your relationships.  Might be interesting!

How do you see yourself?  What do you bring to the table?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Blog Note

A note to you, my reader
 Relationships, therapists, and addictions have received the most votes in the poll so far.  So, the next post, which will go up on Friday will be a short, but interesting post on the subject of relationships.
So far, no one has voted for the posts that I write after I attend the Herrick Hospital Psychiatry Grand Rounds.  However, these posts are in the top ten (google stats) All Time for reader visits.  (Subtracting to Add is #2 for All Time) I guess that the people who read those aren't the same ones who are voting!  Anyway, this is a way for me, to get to you, some of the cutting edge research in the field of psychology which was a promise I made when I began the blog.  When I attend the Grand Rounds, I hear presentations and interact with the lead theorists in the field.  It's exciting!  And, it still seems to me to be a value to include it in the blog.  Those posts will still be included but, less frequently.

There are a lot of other topics that I have written on which weren't included in this poll, such as, friendships, personal growth, lying, shyness, how people function, curiosity, the therapy process, transitions, depression, gratitude, and more.  If there is another topic that you like that was not on the poll, you can ask me to write on it in the "Comments" section.
If you are looking for some information on a particular topic, you can type it into the "Search bar" at the top right and you'll get, at least, a partial list of posts on that topic.  Or, take a look through the "Labels" section; if you click on a label, again,---it will take you to the posts that have that topic in them.
Above all,  please peruse the blog.  Dig in.  There are almost 300 (297 to be exact) posts here.   Almost all of them are as pertinent today as they were when written.  The only posts that are time limited are a few I've written announcing art events.  Most are timeless.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

One reader has answered the poll so far; the vote was for posts about therapists.  So here it is.

 A new and improved product.  We are constantly being told that we are getting the new and improved version of toothpaste, floor cleaner, running shoes, and a myriad other products which we are being urged to buy.  The best deal is when you get the new and improved cereal for the same price!
Most of us are pretty immune to this advertising ploy by now.  Once you have fallen for that line, bought the new version of your toothpaste and found that it was really the same just fine toothpaste you always had, this sales pitch falls on deaf ears.

However, there IS something that does get constantly improved.  It's not a product, it's a service.  If you are in therapy, in most areas, a licensed therapist is legally required to keep improving!  My state, for example, requires 36 hours of continuing education every two years.  If I don't complete that training requirement, I can't renew my license.  If I am not licensed, I cannot legally practice psychotherapy in my state.
Something like this is true for almost all licensed therapists.  So, even if your therapist doesn't talk about it (although, you could ask if you are curious), they are probably attending seminars and workshops all the time that they are working with you.  So, they are learning, expanding their knowledge base, and, being stimulated to think in new ways, on-going.  If you conclude your therapy and then decide to begin anew after some time has passed, you should actually, for real, find a "new and improved version" of your therapist awaiting you!

In addition, most therapists avail themselves of therapy themselves or, have done.  Some, also go for consultation; in other words, if they have a case that they feel they need another therapist's input on, or they are unsure of the effectiveness of their direction with the patient, or they are looking for suggestions about how to help a particular patient or couple or family, they may go to a colleague for advice.

A less expensive alternative is to form a consultation group with colleagues where there are regular meetings designed to discuss cases, talk about oneself as a therapist, share new research information, talk about the business aspect of running a practice and anything else that might be productive for the members.  This is good in that it is continuous, not just sought for a discrete problem as in seeking consultation with another therapist on a particular question/issue and, there is the advantage of getting feedback from several points of view.  In the group, there is, as in all groups, the second hand learning that also takes place, i.e., we learn by listening to others struggle through their conundrums.

In addition to my required trainings, I, myself currently do two of the three outlined, additional educational activities.   
I also read a lot in my field, participate in on-line discussions with other therapists, and hold a lifetime membership in my professional association which also keeps me updated.  Yep, I admit it, I am an egghead!

How complicated it is to become a therapist and what it takes to maintain oneself in that profession is understandably, not apparent to the consumer.  It's a lot easier to see, when an attorney writes a complex brief or a surgeon performs a curative intervention, how much training they must have.
A therapist who is sitting with you, smiling  as they listen may appear to be doing something easy. 

However, they are also remaining present when you dissolve into tears, remembering from session to session- what your issues are, thinking with you, trying to understand your story, holding themselves in a position of compassion, looking for patterns, considering what they might offer that will be helpful, and attempting to hear beneath the surface.  On the face of it, it can look like nothing more than a social visit.  But, what is really occurring is much more than a simple visit.
The level of responsibility that a therapist shoulders is not necessarily apparent to the patient but, it is to the state, thus the demanding requirements, rules, laws and regulations that they have in place.

Of course, some therapists will do the minimum requirement, others will pursue their work as a calling, and there will always be everything in between---as in all professions.  But, at least to some degree, you are guaranteed a, if not new, continually improved, 'product,' as you go!

Is the information here of interest to you?  Please comment!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Welcome Newcomers

Acknowledging my Followers, Fans and Visitors
 If you are a regular reader here, you know that from time to time, I like to recognize countries who often visit my blog or, give a shout out to newcomers.  Russia and the UK are my biggest fans.  I see people from these countries visiting my blog every day.  Thank you to you, for showing me, by your consistent visits, how you value what I am offering here.

The United Arab Emirates has been here before and I noticed a recent visit.  Welcome to you!

 Most of you who visit my blog are from my own country and I am grateful and happy always, that so many of you continue to make use of what I want to share.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

San Francisco Hearts

 Happy Valentines Day

"The heart has its reasons which reason does not know."  Pascal

Monday, February 13, 2012

Wired to Care

            Compassion and Health, The Benefits of Feeling for Others

 "One might assume that watching someone suffering would cause stress and raise the heart rate,” Stellar said. “But we have found that, during compassion, the heart rate lowers as if the body is calming itself to take care of another person.”  Greater Good Science Center.

I took this quote from a report on a study done comparing class differences in how people respond to suffering in others.  For our purposes, I think it is interesting to note (as I have mentioned before, in passing, on the blog) that compassion is actually good for you.

It might seem like when you empathize with someone else's suffering that it is deleterious to you.  But, this is not what the studies are showing.  It seems as if we are wired to care.  Possibly this is why it has long been noticed that volunteer workers are happier as a result of their volunteer activity.  Of course, volunteer work isn't always about helping the less fortunate.  In my community, for example, there is a a very active volunteer group that is doing riparian restoration projects.
But, most volunteer groups exist to provide assistance to people who need help---the elderly, children in juvenile hall, rape victims, the disabled, children having problems in school, crisis intervention hot lines, peer counseling, homeless shelters, lunch programs for the hungry, and so on.

The first time I ever did any volunteer work, I was only 14 years old.  There was a Cerebral Palsy Center on a street we often passed through.  One day I told my mother that I wanted to work there.  So, I became what is often known as a Candy Striper.  We were like young, junior nurses.  But we had no clinical training.  What we did was organize games and art projects and music experiences for the kids.  We socialized with them and offered the acceptance of 'normal teenagers'.  It was wonderful for them.  We just integrated into their group and it made them feel less, sequestered away as if they couldn't or shouldn't hang out in the regular world.

These children and adolescents were severely disabled.  I remember when my mother used to come to pick me up, she would sometimes say,  "Oh!  I don't know how you can do this!"  But, I didn't feel that way at all.  I knew each of those kids as individuals.  I had little relationships, friendships of a sort, with them.  It seemed natural to me.
I still remember some of them.  One boy had muscular dystrophy.  He was in a quite advanced stage, had to be in a wheelchair and during the time I worked there, I saw him losing more and more muscle strength.  He was so discouraged and angry.  His mind was fully functional and normal.  He wanted so much to be doing all the things a teenager at that time would expect to be doing.  He was frustrated at times because some of the kids at the center had developmental disabilities (reduced intellectual capacity).  So, for him, we were a ray of sunshine, a relief, a respite, and our presence was something that he looked forward to.

When you read his story, it probably seems sad to you.  But, in all honesty, while I saw very clearly his predicament, I was there to help and be involved in a positive way.  That's what we all did and it was fine.  It was good.  It felt right.  It just seemed like the thing to do.

Credit:  Photograph of tree by Ping H. Chen.  
             Bottom picture is of a clay Tree of Life, made by an artisan in Mexico, carried here, by hand, by me and another family member.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Emotional Intimacy , Trust, and Pair Bonding

Have you been unfaithful?  Has your partner cheated on you?  Here' a little information about that difficult topic.

 2. Resisting Infidelity Depends on Sexual Personalities. Lots of studies have shown that our personality traits—like extraversion and impulsivity—are related to whether we cheat on our mates or stay faithful. In 2011, researchers found a feature of our personality called "executive control" is really important for sexual fidelity, especially in terms of our ability to resist flirting with attractive members of the opposite sex (Pronk et al., 2011). On the opposite side of the coin is the trait of avoidant attachment, as people who are romantically dismissing tend to pay more attention to attractive alternatives to their current mate and such people also stray more over time (DeWall et al., 2011). Finally, Mark et al. (2011) found that among women (but not men), being dissatisfied with one's relationship matters as much as our personality in predicting infidelity. Being able to stay focused, feel real intimacy, and chose a satisfying partner all seem to be keys to unlocking our most faithful sexual selves.
Psychology Today excerpt

According to these studies, infidelity results from a combination of personality traits with/and, the individual's level of satisfaction with their relationship.  To complicate matters further, I would add that culture or social influences are also in the mix.  In other words, is it expected in your social group that married partners will stray at one time or another?  Is it believed to be 'natural'  to seek sexual variety by engaging with people other than one's primary partner?  If you are a member of a social group that supports marriage, extra-marital sex will most likely be frowned upon.  These social mores have an influence. 

So, as you consider these three aspects, who are you thinking about?   This is information you can use for evaluating yourself.  Most people, while reading the above excerpt, will be analyzing their partner.  But, in marriage, and in long-term, committed relationships, you are what you can control.  You are the whom you can change.

Last night I watched the movie, Unfaithful.  It is a compelling story about a person who becomes involved in two intimate relationships at once.  At one point in the film, this character's friend foretells doom.  She says:  "Affairs always end in disaster."  It is the case in this story.
It isn't always true in life but, often it is.
I have seen couples, in my practice, make their way through discovered secret liaisons of one partner and back, to a strong bond with one another.  It takes both people wanting the relationship, a sense of value not only on the relationship but on oneself, the ability to forgive, a willingness to learn, and the devotion to really work at figuring out together how the problem happened and how to re-build trust.

There have been entire books written on this subject and, yet it is still so difficult to talk about.  For those who believe that they are in an exclusive relationship with another and find that they have been betrayed, the hurt is searing.  So, it is a sensitive topic.  But, if you have not had this unfortunate experience, it may be prudent to do some thinking about it,  as a preventative.  For those who have been through this loss, I encourage you to have hope.  Even a wound this deep, can be healed.
Please comment.  Your sharing your thoughts or feelings here may be helpful to you and will be helpful to other readers.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Carl Jung:
“There are as many nights as days, and the one is just as long as the other in the year's course. Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word 'happy' would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness."

Nathaniel Hawthorne:
"Happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."

While we Americans mostly think of the authors of our Declaration of Independence as very wise people, they did include the phrase,  as a right, "...the pursuit of happiness."  Now, most who ponder these things say that, in fact, you can't try for happiness and that it may appear when you least expect it.  The thing to do is to notice it .