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 27, 2012

Stress Reduction, 2

An oft-repeated piece of advice that seems to have some truth to it

 "Simplify your lifeHappiness and peace are rooted in simplicity.  Excessive thoughts and actions cloud your basic core values."  Author unknown

Here is a reminder I offer to both you and me.   I lead a complicated and busy life.  But I do recognize who it was who created that life...!  So, that means there's only one person who can change it  :)

I am trying---because I believe that more of the good, kind, right, juicy, positive stuff will be free to bubble up from within me if my life is simpler.

How will you simplify your life?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

False Pride Can Lead to Loss

Relationships lost over the need to be right

 Today I was in a cafe having a cup of tea.  Right behind me was a table where a couple were having an argument, an argument that went on for a long time.  I was trying not to hear it but still, the jist of it came through.  It was about being right.
It was arguing to prevail, to be the best at the debate.
Of course, there are no winners here.

I used to know someone who thought it was more important to establish the facts (that is, the facts as he saw them), in a disagreement with his wife than to leave her happy.  I am talking about mostly mundane arguments here such as how salty the soup is.

There are some people who find it very important to be right.  They want others to recognize that they are right.  They know the most.  They are sometimes also the people who say, "I told you so."  They want to triumph.

In the course of pursuing that victory, they lose something.  Conquering others does not engender closeness.  The victor walks off, head held high but, alone.

The man I mentioned above, who was so frequently correcting his wife and dominating in their disagreements, had an impoverished marriage.  In fact, although he was really a sweet and good person, because of this one penchant for arguing for the so-called facts, he was a pretty lonely guy.

Sadly, he never figured it out.

Do you know someone who fights for the prize of being the one who is right?  Do you have this habit?  In my view, most of the time, in personal relationships, it doesn't matter; being right contributes to a sense of self-importance but it isn't important who is right. 

That isn't what personal relationships are about. It seems to me that it is much more valuable to the nourishment of the relationship to accept the other's different perspective.
I believe it is usually more fruitful to truly consider the propositions put out by your mate or friend.  So, why do I say it's better?

Because this attitude buys you so much:
Engagement (a non-conversation stopper)
New ideas
Learning about another person
Closeness (your partner feels heard)
The absence of putting down someone you care about
You both got to enjoy an exchange
You can both leave the encounter happy
You are less likely to incur resentment
You might get to be listened to yourself, without having to impose yourself on the other

"That is the happiest conversation where there is no competition, no vanity, but a calm, quiet interchange of sentiments."  Samuel Johnson

 Here's another true situation I know about.  Two brothers got in a fight during the time their elderly mother was needing assistance; she couldn't care for herself anymore and they had to help.   They were stressed-partly because, in this case, her decline happened suddenly and they hadn't expected it.  They weren't prepared.  The interruption and demands suddenly landing in the middle of their busy lives made them mad and they took it out on each other.  Yelling and aggressive language happened, hanging up the phone on each other happened.  One of them was a person who always had to argue until he could establish that he was right (this usually includes not being able to or inclined to apologize and that was the case here).  This time, although they had mended fences before, they were unable to and lost the relationship with each other, permanently.  Their children lost the benefit of their aunt and uncle and cousins.  A rift with far-reaching consequences had occurred which, while there were surrounding circumstances (the high stress both were feeling), it was the driving need to be right that closed all options, in the end.

"I'd far rather be happy than right any day."  Douglas Adams
A related post:

 What advantages have you found to giving up having to be right?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Button, Revisited

Have you been inspired by something you read here?

I hope you have been delighted by something you saw here.  I hope you have been provoked to think in a new way by reading one of my posts or one of the thoughtful comments that have been offered by readers.   I hope visiting this blog has caused you to reflect and bring more awareness to your own life experience.  Lofty goals, huh.  Well, that is, honestly what I am doing here.

The blog is generated by my own energy, to power that butterfly effect.  It is encouraged by your check marks in the little boxes, your comments, and  your visits even if you make no response.  It is funded by me and you.  Your donations support this blog.
So, if you have found something of value here, a small donation will be super.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Magic Formula Revisited

Having fun as a couple

 Here's an idea that came to me as a result of reading another blog, Kim's Counseling Corner.  She is a child therapist and so her blog has a different slant from mine, but, I find that she has some wonderful doing-type ideas. 

In this case, what got me thinking is her idea of having family members put down on a piece of paper an activity that they would enjoy and place it in the Family Activity Jar.  On some regular basis (once a month? once very 2 weeks?  -- whatever fits your family schedule), a paper is ritually drawn out of the jar and the whole family does that activity together.  The purpose is to increase positive family time.  I would add that it is a democratic family experience for the kids---well, for all family members, really. 

So, it occurred to me that this would add a little twist to the idea I put forth in The Magic Formula post:  Why not each partner in the couple put their wishes for the couple's date in a jar and when it was one's turn to plan the date, that person drew an activity idea from the jar?  Just a way to make it more of a surprise and a little bit more fun maybe. 

How do you and your mate put fun into your relationship?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Thoughtful Eating is Healthy Eating

Here are a couple of ideas for how to help yourself with your relationship to food

Key to weight loss? Think about it

Arthur Foulkes, The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Ind.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Kristeller, clinical psychologist and senior research scientist at Indiana State University, researches and teaches what is called mindfulness eating -- an approach to food that can help people lose and keep off weight without a radical diet or dramatic changes in the foods they eat.
Kristeller helps clients ... understand how to eat smarter and healthier.

The ISU professor is featured in the second part of a four-part Home Box Office series, "The Weight of the Nation," a look at the nation's obesity problem. The HBO documentary featuring Kristeller and Elissa Epel, one of the chief investigators in the study at the University of California in San Francisco, is available online at
Being "mindful" about eating, Kristeller said, is simply stopping and deliberately thinking about what you are going to eat and why. It's checking with your body's signals, such as feeling hungry or feeling full. It's also making conscious decisions about what, when and how much to eat.
"A lot of eating patterns are automatic," Kristeller said in a recent interview at the ISU Psychology Clinic. "We actually make hundreds of decisions a day about eating."

Mindful eating also focuses on the quality of food over quantity. In American culture, "more is better," seems to determine our eating habits. Kristeller's approach would have us put quality first.
Focusing on quantity has helped cause "a massive obesity problem" in the United States, Kristeller said. Mindful eating focuses on appreciating food, savoring it and not just wolfing it down.
Hear your body's signals---
Mindful eating involves listening to your body's signals.
Often we eat even after we have consumed all the calories our bodies require, Kristeller said. Mindful eating allows us to slow down and recognize when we've had all we need. Slowing down and savoring food also allows us to maximize the pleasure we get from food.

"If you love French fries, we don't tell you to stop eating French fries," Kristeller said. "Just eat fewer" and enjoy them more.
"You might be surprised that if you really focused on savoring even four or five French fries, rather than gobbling down 20 or 30, you'd enjoy them and realize that this was possibly enough," she said.
Mindful eating is also about budgeting how many calories you consume, but primarily it is about "creating a healthy relationship with eating and food," Kristeller said.
The mindful approach to eating spills over into other areas of a person's life...
And, unlike traditional forms of dieting, the mindful approach to eating does not force someone to give up favorite foods. Nor does it impose other habits that are so out of the ordinary that any weight loss is likely to be only temporary. Mindful eating involves learning to tune in on natural hunger and fullness cues -- knowing when you've eaten enough.
"That's the great thing about the skills [involved in mindful eating]," Linda said. "It's not something that you lose just because you had a bad moment or bad day."
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or"

* * * * *

Another recent notion put forth is the idea (fact?) that there are significant differences in how acute people's taste buds are.  So, those who have a very sensitive taster are likely to be more easily satisfied and to eat less.  Those with less sharp taste buds tend to keep eating once they begin, trying to get a sense of satisfaction.  It seems unfair but this is something that would be inborn.  If you can figure this out about yourself and you tend to be more numb to flavors, possibly the mindfulness approach would help you enjoy food more by paying more attention to what you do eat.

Applying mindfulness to eating is where mental health and physical health come together.
BTW, just to let you know, I am trying to install the mindful eating habit in myself and it isn't instant nor easy.  Just like any new behavior, it takes purposeful doing of it for awhile before it will become a habit.  But, I think this one is a worthwhile effort.  

If you try this method, please tell us how it goes.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Stress Reduction

The 1st of a series of 3 simple tips for stress reduction

"Be Grateful.  Try this before going to bed tonight:  Write down three things that you feel thankful for or three things that went well today.  Research shows that 15 minutes of daily gratitude can dramatically decrease stress hormones."  Author unknown

What are you grateful for?

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Imperfect Therapist, Part III

Clients assessing the therapist

                                              Sculpture by Christine Kaiser

  Sometimes a therapist may look more flawed than they are.  
People come to therapy with certain expectations---sometimes they are happily surprised, sometimes they may feel they are not getting what they were looking for.

In this last case, we therapists sometimes receive criticism.  It has happened to me a few times.  When it is warranted, I am fine with it.  When it  isn't, I find it really hard to take.  But, the therapy session isn't the place for the therapist to become defensive...!  So, I feel it is actually much easier to take a deserved criticism as feedback and an opportunity to improve than it is to try to redeem yourself when a patient has complained inappropriately.  How do you stick up for yourself?  Difficult to do.

One time I got told that I didn't give enough direction and that I was more of a "listener type".  Actually, as therapists go, I am probably on the more talkative end of the spectrum (you may have figured that out if you've looked through this blog at all---lots of posts in a shorter time than most...!)
I am not one of those, "uh-huh, yes, ummm", silent type therapists (and I have also received compliments on that from other patients).  I am more of an engaged in an exchange type of therapist than most.   So, this felt quite unjust.
 I do listen though.  I have to know what the actual problem is and that takes some attention and time.  As a matter of fact, I often have to restrain myself because it is so tempting to tell people what to do which is not our job.
I do give suggestions however.  And, this comment seemed particularly undeserved as it was a case wherein I had made more suggestions than usual and really tried to work out a plan of action with the patient, only to have it ignored.
(Have you ever noticed how sometimes a person does something themselves and then blames another?  Very common.)

Of course, most people don't necessarily understand how therapy works, even some who have partaken of it for a long time.  When I go to therapy myself, I am not only working on myself or my own issues but, I am taking full advantage of the process.  Of course, that's because I know what it is.  
It would be a benefit to patients or potential patients to learn about how therapy actually works and why it helps, what a therapist's role is, and how the patient can make the most of their experience!      (Here is a post on that topic:
I don't believe in keeping therapy a mystery or a secret---that's one reason I do this blog---the more you can understand how the process works, the better position you are in to take the full benefit.  Here is another post on how you can best benefit from your therapy process: 
Some people are more difficult to help than others:   
  • Some come to therapy---a place, by definition, for change---very resistant to change.  
  • Some present themselves to a therapist for help with a thorny problem and then withhold some of the pertinent information, leaving the therapy process handicapped.  
  • Some repeat the same problem over and over but never apply in their life what insight or decision was arrived at in any of the sessions.  
  • Some want things to be different in their lives but are interested only in 'tea and sympathy'.  
  • Some would like it very much if others in their life would change but refuse to try anything differently themselves (even how they think about something).  
  • There are patients who lie to their therapists sometimes which, of course, makes it impossibly difficult to help appropriately. 
  • I have even had someone say, at the end of a session, wherein we developed a detailed plan about how to deal with a difficult family member, "Oh, I just wish she'd just stop causing problems."  It was clear to me at that point that none of the planning we had done was going to be applied.

Nonetheless, we therapists in such situations usually keep trying, every week, to think creatively about the patient's problem, to come up with a new angle of approach, and to maintain our compassion for the person before us.

You can imagine how hard it would be to take criticism in one of these scenarios...!

Lest I end this view on one of the challenges of being in the therapist role on a sour note, I will share with you a wonderful bit of an assessment I received today from a young client of mine---a cute teenager:  She said:  "I like it that this is like a conversation and I am not feeling like I am getting the 3rd degree!  I like having a regular weekly meeting even though I don't always have a crisis, it's nice to know this is here for me in case I do.  I'm glad we can laugh together sometimes I feel like you really care."
That little girl made my day! 

Please share your feelings in a comment below or in the reaction boxes.  

(This is Part III of the series, The Imperfect Therapist, which has continued to attract many readers; the second post in the series is here:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sometimes Ignorance is Bliss

A little mid-week lightheartedness                         

  There are some who just will not follow the rules.