Seven Damaging Fights Couples Have

August 20th, 2016

As I listen to people in my office I hear every imaginable thing. People express their concerns, fears, anxieties, sadness, angers, guilts, hopes and dreams. I listen well, express empathy, and begin the process of moving forward to solutions for these presenting concerns. Some therapeutic beginnings are more difficult than others. These are the ones that begin with couples sharing their “down n dirty” fights. The hateful emotion and residual bitterness is hard to stomach. Mutual disrespect, resentment, and lack of support are the results. But, such is the life of many couples who either should not be married or need to learn better skills to avoid such toxic encounters.

Bibi Deitz wrote and interesting blog on this topic listing seven toxic fights that couples have. I will list them and comment on each for your education and edification- if so warranted.

  1. Sex: Are you surprised? Sex is so emotionally loaded. Want to do it, when to do it, how to do it, etc… can lead to hurt feelings, rejection, anger. Thus, words or exaggerated behaviors may result creating a toxic encounter.
  2. Money: Excess spending, anal control, fiscal infidelity, lack of transparency all are factors raising the temperature gauge leading to toxic encounter.
  3. Mudslinging Fight: This is when some trigger situation opens up some extreme put downs. Favorite target areas to disparage are looks, weight, and intelligence. Mean spirited name calling is ugly and creates another toxic encounter.
  4. Partner’s Family: The rule of thumb here is that a person can talk trash about his/her family but the partner cannot. People can get very protective, sometimes irrationally, about their family. Can be weird.
  5. Control Partner: One partner continually badgers and harasses the other into behavior or activity that is wanted by that person. At some point the dam breaks and the harassed one blows up and escalated rhetoric results in another toxic encounter.
  6. Household Chores: Who does what (the dishes), and how (the “right way” to load the dishwasher), and when (the next day?) are frequent disagreements. Is the division of labor “fair”? Is score keeping going on? Household chores frequently lead to toxic encounters.
  7. Have Nothing To Do With Situation At Hand: These are build up explosions emanating from stale resentments that burst forth out of the blue. These outbursts certainly can lead to another toxic encounter.

Well, Respected Reader, any of these occur in your household? How about some others that are not mentioned here?

It’s tough to re-connect after one of these toxic encounters. Avoid if at all possible.  Bruised feelings and egos can take time to recover and get on path toward re-kindled love. But it is worth the try!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

What Have You Left Behind? Still Need To Do What?

August 5th, 2016

Along the pathway of life you make choices to acquire, keep, or leave behind. At a given time these choices appear to be the “right” ones, the best available. Categories may include friends, lovers, parents, siblings, kids, jobs, finances, cities, habits, beliefs, activities, material “stuff”, etc…

Since one of my mottos, and practices, is the Socratic dictum, “the unexamined life is not worth living”, I frequently look at the quality of life that I am living. There is the occasional glance backward seeing if any choices made need correction or modification. If not, and it is a negative thought, I leave it behind, savoring only the good stuff. It has been freeing, cleansing, and motivating to leave behind that which no longer is meaningful and/or additive to my life.

In the present I examine the above categories, some more than others, on a regular basis. Again, I am assessing if some new choices need to be made, what is to be kept, and what needs to be left behind. That which enhances my life in some form or fashion is welcomed and appreciated. That which does not affirm, support, or move me forward is left behind. I will not go through life carrying any unnecessary “baggage”! Many a sage has counseled to “travel light” through life.

Your goal in life is to become all that you can be – develop the whole self – all of your potential. A weighed down person is not free or capable of making the hard choices to shed some of the heaviness that exhausts any efforts to move forward. Have the courage to make the hard choices.

This “examined” life is called intentional living – seeking and developing a life of purpose and passion. This mention of my life style is meant to invite you, Respected Reader, to ask yourself to what degree do you “examine” your life and the choices made. Is your day to day “heavy”? Is there some “baggage” that needs to be left behind? I do not know anybody that does not have some “dark closets” to clean out and leave behind. Are you an exception? Doubt it.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

“Thirteen Things Mentally Strong People DON’T Do”! Do You?

July 29th, 2016

I am a professional in the mental health field. I continually am trying to assist clients to become stronger mentally in order to become more successful in everyday living and in their relationships. Recently I came across a book by Amy Morin with the above quoted title that I thought was terrific and embodies many of the principles that I have tried to convey through my articles. I quote these things and add my own embellishment.

  1. THEY DON’T WASTE TIME FEELING SORRY FOR THEMSELVES: No pity parties for these folks! You never have to say to them, “would you like some cheese with your whine”. Pity parties waste time, create negative energy, hurt your relationships, and stifles moving forward.
  2. THEY DON’T GIVE AWAY THEIR POWER: People that give away their power become impotent and lack physical and emotional boundaries. I encourage people to know their strengths and come from that position going forward. If you don’t own your power you stay stuck.
  3. THEY DON’T SHY AWAY FROM CHANGE: To change is to grow and go forward. Morin lists five stages of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.
  4. THEY DON’T FOCUS ON THINGS THEY CAN’T CONTROL: Know what you can control and what you cannot. Focus on what is possible and don’t waste energy in fruitless efforts to go beyond the limits of your power.
  5. THEY DON’T WORRY ABOUT PLEASING EVERYONE: When your self esteem is based on how well other people like you, you will continue to be just “blowin’ in the wind” of other people’s perspectives. You will not be centered, empowered, and moving in your own proper direction.
  6. THEY DON’T FEAR TAKING CALCULATED RISKS: Morin suggests these self answered questions: What are the potential costs? What are the potential benefits? How will this help me achieve my goal? What are the alternatives? Personally speaking, my two biggest “risks” have turned out to be incredibly successful, satisfying, and empowering. “No guts, no glory” – an old standby motto that still can make sense.
  7. THEY DON’T DWELL ON THE PAST: This is one of my favorites. I say that you cannot move forward if your head is still turned backwards. You can’t change the past, can hopefully learn something from mistakes made, and can move forward.
  8. THEY DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES OVER AND OVER: Mentally strong people accept responsibility for a mistake, learn from it, and create a plan to move forward.
  9. THEY DON’T RESENT OTHER PEOPLE’S SUCCESS: Jealousy is a wasted energy, fruitless, and it takes you off course. You need to focus on creating your own path. Compliment those that are successful and, perhaps, learn from them as to how you may be more successful.
  10. THEY DON’T GIVE UP AFTER THE FIRST FAILURE: Persistence, constantly reflecting on a better course, leads to success. A favorite quote of mine is “I don’t lose, I learn”.
  11. THEY DON’T FEAR ALONE TIME: Morin states, “Creating time to be alone with your thoughts can be a powerful experience, instrumental in helping you reach your goals.” Personally I crave and utilize productively my solitude time. Beware of those dependent people who need to be with someone all the time.
  12. THEY DON’T FEEL THE WORLD OWES THEM ANYTHING: Entitlement shackles true creativity and growth. Self motivated people earn their successes and, thus, feel confident and empowered.
  13. THEY DON’T EXPECT IMMEDIATE RESULTS: They have a willingness to expect realistic expectations and an understanding that persistence and grinding it out ultimately will bring success to a well thought out plan.

Well, Respected Reader, how mentally strong are you based on these benchmarks? Which ones are strengths of yours and which ones need some shoring up? These thirteen deserve to be cut out and posted in a conspicuous place for continued reminding!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates”

Everyone Has Emotional Scars That Inhibit. Do You Know Yours?

July 22nd, 2016

One of the major insights of my life has been the realization that everyone has emotional scars and how impactful those scars are in a person’s attempts to have a fulfilling life. Emotional scars can vary over a wide spectrum. They could come from what was done unto you, or what you did not get that was needed, or something you did that has left an emotional negative imprint. Headline factors would include abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), abandonment, guilt) .

The limbic area of the brain, the emotional part, has been “recording” every event in your life from early on in your existence. Some of emotional imprints are retrievable in your conscious memory. Others would be shut down in your subconscious, difficult to remember because you have blocked memory, perhaps due to the defense mechanism of denial. Defense mechanisms exist and persist to block perceived emotional pain.

Part of my challenge as a therapist is to help a person come to know what these scars are and the particular area of the person’s life that is being negatively impacted. Some of these scars may have come from parents, other caregivers including baby sitters and relatives, friends, dating relationships, employment experiences, financial setbacks, etal. They can be many and diverse over a period of time.

Once the painful scars are brought into consciousness, with an understanding of its damage, the work of healing can take place if you are committed to the process. And healing CAN take place!

A qualified and competent therapist that understands this and does this type of psychotherapy can offer much to facilitate such emotional and behavioral healing. In my practice, I give some challenging, usually pain inducing, “homework” to dig out these buried scars. While this may initially be painful it is critical to the healing. An analogy would be a broken bone. Surgery is needed that initially causes pain but leads to healing and full recovery. I do psychological surgery!

As part of the therapeutic process the therapist may partner up with a medical professional for pharmaceutical assistance, as well as a significant other or two, who have a current impactful role in the person’s life. A spouse is the usual significant other here, other times it may be a parent or child.

I reiterate with emphasis, everyone has emotional scars from wounds experienced along life’s trail. The key is to know what they are and how they have limited the potential successes in various parts of your life.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

Building Positive Self Esteem Is Critically Important! Know How?

July 13th, 2016

How a person feels and thinks about his or her self is a vitally important factor in how successful a person will be over the course of a lifetime. By “success” I mean academically, vocationally, financially, socially and the capacity for an intimate relationship. It is a core driver with regard to choices made. Self esteem can be separated out to be an internal belief and external presentation – who one is in essence and what one does. The distinction between these is complex.

Your “self” is a dynamic evolving aspect of your being, your essence. It is continually being developed, influenced, and molded by significant people and events in your life – and how you process such experiences.

Self image, how we perceive ourselves, begins at the very earliest stages of human growth and development. A child is constantly reacting to his/her safe or hostile environment. The brain, particularly the limbic area where emotional memories are stored, is being molded accordingly. From early on a child is perceiving and reacting to his/her environment, especially the “messages” from significant others. The messages include ones of love, safety, hurt, anger, guilt, abandonment, etc… .

Depending on whether a child is driver or passive personality, emotionally expressive or retentive, this message encoding will usually result in some form of imbalance. Low self esteem individuals of a certain type can be very successful in accomplishments because his or her value/self esteem is based on accomplishment to cover the inner, oftentimes subconscious, feeling of unworthiness. As long as the person can be applauded by others for some accomplishment the inner low self esteem can be covered up. These “drivers” look good on paper. The other major type will be very unsuccessful because there is no “drive” there. These people often turn to negative behaviors that activate the feel good part of the brain such as some form of addictive behavior. Depression usually accompanies these feelings of low self worth.

I’m aware that some of you are going to be reading this and saying “this is a bunch of nonsensical psychobabble.”  This language doesn’t make a lot of sense to some people. Others are in denial. But let me assure you that self esteem is an important factor in ultimate happiness, taking in all the circumstances of a person’s life over time.

Bottom line here, be cognizant of your early upbringing. To what extent did you feel consistently love, nurtured, safe, positively reinforced, etc… by the significant people in your life? If yes, be grateful and express it to those you can reach them. If the answer is no, then realize you have some self esteem deficits that will seep through in some places in your life and affect your potential for success. A wise person knows his or her “Achilles heel”!

If you want to know more about your self esteem, I’ll give you some revealing homework and then you give me fifty minutes, and I’ll explain yours to you and how your resulting self esteem works both for and against your overall success.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates