Archive for February, 2011

Do You Have “Hardening of the Categories? Are You Simplistic, Rigid or Evolving?

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

     The journey in search of meaningful truths that affect and guide your personal life can be arduous and challenging.  For sake of discussion I would like to present three types of mindsets.  Each is represented by a certain type of person; one may be you!

SIMPLISTIC  SAM/SAMANTHA:   This person has bought into a particular world view in his/her youth and has never modified it. S/he knows what is “right” and refuses to be open-minded.  S/he had an early case of “hardening of the categories.”  Don’t confuse this person with the facts!  S/he wants everyone to believe what s/he believes.  This person can be very irritating and invasive.

RIGID  ROGER/REGINA:  This person over-reacted to early life teachings by parents-teachers-preachers and has become very closed minded and is threatened by alternative ideas. S/he is just as close-minded.  S/he doesn’t like what was taught early on and has “thrown out the baby with the bath.”  S/he is often bitter, antagonistic, and feels threatened by different viewpoints. S/he is quite defensive, and often “shoots the messenger.”  This person often leads a self destructive life style.

EVOLVING  EARL/ URLINA.   This person continually examines beliefs, theories, and scientific findings. S/he is able to modify, change, or enrich previous ideas. This person looks at new discoveries and viewpoints to see if they can be additive.  S/he is open-minded, without necessarily grabbing on to the latest fad of the times. This person welcomes debate, but doesn’t need to “win.”  The sharing is a valuable exchange.

     In which category do you think you fall?  Have you changed or modified central tenets or beliefs of your earlier, perhaps naïve, life?  What about other people in your life, in which category are they?

      There is a need in our society for opportunities to discuss important ideas in a civilized, respectful and challenging manner.  Religious, political, educational, moral beliefs and practices should continually be able to be discussed and evaluated as new knowledge and findings become available.

     Personally, I am amazed at what I have learned and how I have changed since my parochial upbringing in Green Bay.  An undergraduate Liberal Arts degree, seminary theological studies, doctoral psychology training, travel, and significant personal experiences have opened up rewarding vistas of knowledge as I seek my personal truths.

     Where are you on your journey?  Or have you not yet begun to walk down that path, staying “safe” in your Simple or Rigid world?  (If you feel threatened or irritated by the previous sentence, the shoe may fit)  Do you know what you do not know?  Are you willing to seek, to move on, to evolve? The questioning philosopher, Socrates, said  “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I believe him, do you?

Optimist or Pessimist: Which One Are You?

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

     Is the glass half full or half empty?  Optimists and pessimists perceive the world quite differently.  This has significant implications for how you live life and what kind of relationship you have with significant others in your life.

     Dr. Martin Seligman, noted psychological researcher and author, in his book LEARNED OPTIMISM, describes the difference between pessimists and optimists.

Pessimists tend to believe bad events will last a long time and will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault.

 Optimists tend to believe defeat is just a temporary setback in this one case and is not their fault.

 Pessimists give up more easily, get depressed more often, get sick more often, have higher stress levels, and die earlier.             

Optimists accept the challenge and try harder, network better, make more money, and live longer and happier

Pessimists are hard to be around.  They emphasize what’s wrong,  blame others, and lament the life situation in front of them.  They are the people you want to say: “Would you like some cheese with that whine?”

Optimists are better at using cognitive reasoning to dispute self defeating beliefs. They don’t allow themselves to get into a funk that lasts very long.  They are resilient and accept the challenge to excel at whatever challenge presents itself.

     Many years ago I wrote a paper called “Love: the Quintessence of Being”, related to personality type.  The emphasis was on personal behavioral environment and its affect on an individual’s personality.  In it I stated that people that are negative, lazy, bigoted, angry, or unforgiving are to be avoided.  As the oracle “Desiderata” states, they are “vexations of the spirit.”

     Quantum physics helps us to understand that how we perceive and act has a lot to do with effecting the direction of our reality.  Good intentions, prayerful thoughts, facilitate good things happening and minimize negative results.

     To the extent that you can learn to be optimistic to that extent will your life have a higher probability of happiness and success = a preferred way of perceiving, feeling, and acting. Look again at that glass!

“He Said” – “She Said”: Win-Lose — or “Wiggle Room”?

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

     Have you ever been in a situation where you told your spouse something and later s/he said that you did not?  Also, has your spouse said to you that s/he told you something and you swear s/he did not?  What couple has not experienced this communication mishit?

     Much of the counseling that I do with couples involved listening to each of them telling me what was said or what happened between them.  Both proclaim that they were right and the other was wrong.  I don’t let this kind of “he said, she said” go on very long.   I tell them that if they cannot bring in the video tape, we won’t discuss it. Subjective revisionist history is a waste of time and money.

     Each person has a view of reality – his or her perception of what has gone on between them.  Each then has ego investment in it and the couple has a power struggle that can only end up in a win-lose condition, or severe argument where both people get mad.

      In order to avoid such destructive communication battles, I encourage people to give each other “wiggle room.”  When a couple disagrees about what was said or done, each person can say: “ I thought I said or did that, maybe I did not.”  The other gives “wiggle room” by saying: “maybe you did say or do that; maybe I missed it.”

     When you give “wiggle room” you give the other person respect and thus lower the other’s defenses.  This communication adjustment eliminates someone being righteously victorious or demeaned into defeat.

      Usually the “he said, she said” differences of opinion are about trivial things, sometimes more serious.  The most important element involved, however, is the RELATIONSHIP.  No difference of opinion or communication failure should get in the way of the relationship staying on track.  That is why a couple dare not let the different perceptual reality escalate into an argument.  It isn’t worth it!

      For those couples that have trouble giving “wiggle room” and continue with ugly communication, I offer another suggestion.  If you know a topic to be discussed is volatile, then turn on the video or audio recorder, and proceed.  Knowing that the conversation will be recorded greatly influences the way each person talks to the other.  Even if you are in the middle of a “hot one,” one of you could have the presence of mind to turn it on.  That will change the tenor of the communication!

      “Wiggle room” and/or a recorder can help when communication reflects different views of reality.  Try these suggestions and you won’t argue as much or as heatedly.  It doesn’t pay to “win” or “be right” at the expense of the other person’s dignity or of the relationship.

     P.S.  Quiz:  Do you know what phenomenology is?

Do You Laugh Well? Often? Need To!

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

       To be able to laugh is important for your well being.  Are you typically a frowner or a smiler? How often do you laugh, tell a joke, make a funny quip?

     Quality research, particularly that of Dr.William F. Fry, and Dr. Allan R. Reiss of Stanford University, has demonstrated that smiling and a sense of humor significantly enhance:

     Physical health

     Psychological well-being

     Romantic relationships

Physical Health:

  1. Provides exercise by increasing the heart rate, stimulating blood circulation and breathing, and improving muscle tone.  Dr. Frye calculated that 100 laughs equal ten minutes on a rowing machine.
  2. Reduces pain by firing the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
  3. Stimulates the immune system

Psychological Well Being:

  1. Stimulates mental functions such as alertness and memory
  2. Reduces stress by lowering levels of cortisol, a stress hormone
  3. Activates a “brain reward system that helps with depression

Romantic Relationships:

  1. Helps us establish and maintain relationships.  People “connect” when they laugh.  Some of  the best dates people have are at comedy clubs.  Humor loosens people up and they become more “in touch” with one another.

     Dr. Clifford Kuler, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, encourages sharpening of one’s “capacity for laughter.”  He wants people to concentrate on having fun.  He also recommends a “daily workout.”

                      Raise your eyebrows as high as you can

                      Close your eyes as tightly as you can

                      Grimace as deeply as you can

                      Stretch all the major laugh muscles

     What do you do for fun?  What brings a smile to your face?  Count the number of times you smile or laugh on a given day. Every smile, every laugh, makes for a longer and more joyful life.  “Have you heard the one about…” (finish the sentence)!

What Is a Healthy Family?

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

     What is a healthy family?  Usually the only one we know is the one we came from, and that is considered normative.  The following is an attempt to bring some objectivity to the understanding of a healthy family.

1. HAVE CLEAR PRIORITIES.  FAMILY IS  IMPORTANT.  EACH PERSON IS VALUED.

2. ACTIVELY LOVE ONE ANOTHER.      THERE ARE DAILY HUGS AND “I LOVE YOU’S”  SHARED.   LOVING WORDS AND TOUCH ARE IMPORTANT!    THE  FAMILY IS A SECURE PLACE TO BE.  SECURITY IS CRITICAL.

3. COMMUNICATES.    LISTENS (WHAT THE OTHER IS  SAYING, BOTH VERBALLY AND NON VERBALLY)    ASSERTS ( MEMBERS STATE THEIR PERCEPTIONS AND NEEDS)  

4. RESPECTS AND TRUSTS  ONE ANOTHER.  (R & T ARE THE FOUNDATION OF LOVE.    LYING  DOES NOT  HAPPEN.  PRIVACY AND GROWING INDEPENDENCE  IS VALUED.   BOUNDARIES ARE SET AND RESPECTED.

5. WORKS   AND  PLAYS  TOGETHER.   THINGS  ARE ACCOMPLISHED,  AND FUN  HAPPENS.  A SENSE OF HUMOR  EXISTS  IN THE FAMILY.

6. FORGIVES AND ASKS TO BE FORGIVEN.  EVERYONE MAKES MISTAKES

7. HAS   EXPECTATIONS.   IT HAS CONSISTENCY   THERE  ARE  ROLES/,  RULES,/ & RESPONSIBILITIES.  THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES,  POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE, FOR PERFORMANCE.

8. THANKS AND EXPRESSESS GRATITUDE TO ONE ANOTHER.

9. FLEXIBILITY AND ADAPTABILITY  ARE PRESENT.  THINGS ARE NOT RIGID. THE FAMILY IS DEVELOPMENTAL, GOES THROUGH DIFFERENT AGES AND STAGES.

CHANGE IS INEVITABLE.  CHANGE  IS WELCOMED.

10. HAS CLEAR VALUES AND MORALS.   IT INVITES SPIRITUALITY.

SEVEN  STRENGTHS OR RESILIENCIES THAT EMERGE FROM  A HEALTHY FAMILY

1.  INSIGHT  OR  AWARENESS.  PEOPLE ARE TUNED IN, STATE THEIR PERCEPTIONS, ASK TOUGH QUESTIONS.  WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?

2.  INDEPENDENCE  — PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY.   THERE IS A STRONG

SENSE OF SELF, NOT NEEDY OR DEPENDENT ON SOMEONE ELSE FOR HAPPINESS     

3. CAPABLE  OF DEVELOPING APPROPRIATE  RELATIONSHIPS  WITH OTHERS

IN VARIOUS SITUATIONS AND STAGES OF ONE’S LIFE  — IN WORK, PLAY,

FRIENDSHIP, AND ROMANCE.

4. INITIATIVE.   SEEING A PROBLEM AND DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

5.  CREATIVITY    BE ABLE TO CREATE OR MAKE HAPPEN SOMETHING SPECIAL

6. HUMOR.  BE ABLE TO SEE THE LIGHT SIDE OF THINGS.

7. BE MORAL.  HAVE AN INFORMED CONSCIENCE  AND BE ABLE TO PUT IT INTO

PRACTICE.   “TO WALK THE TALK”