Archive for October, 2011

Some People Change! Some Do Not:( Why? The Difference Is…

Monday, October 31st, 2011

                “Here’s to the strong; thanks to the brave.

                  Don’t give up hope, some people change.

                  Against all odds, against the grain;

                  Love finds a way, some people change.

     This song, by Montgomery Gentry, struck me while hearing it the other day.  One of the verses is about an angry racist father who sees the “light” and becomes a better man.  Another verse is about a woman who is an alcoholic, but changes and “throws the bottle down”.

     I’m in a “change” profession.  I believe that people can change. I am grateful every day to see the changes, big and small, in people who are “brave” enough to seek counseling assistance. Despite many obstacles, people can and do change for the better.

     One of my first experience in seeing dramatic change was when in my younger years I was living in the ghetto of Chicago’s west side and working with a gang called the Vice Lords.  The leader of Chicago’s largest gang was James “Caveman” Hobson.  He was abandoned as an infant, then lived in thirty two foster homes until he was sixteen.  Then he was homeless.  He was arrested sixty times.  Because of the efforts of a number of us church volunteers he “changed” his life around. With special dispensation from the Secretary of the Army he went to Vietnam.  He came back with two bronze medals and a medal of honor from Mayor Daley. A few years ago he was the cover story of the Chicago Tribune’s magazine section.   He now is giving back to Chicago’s youth as a park district supervisor. We still stay in touch. He is an inspiration. “Some people change, don’t give up hope”.

     As the song says, “some” people change.  Some do not. Those that are brave enough and ready to seek counseling will receive an evaluation and recommendations as to how the change can take place.  A skilled therapist facilitates this growthful change process. Anxiety, depression, addictions, dysfunctional marriages and families, etc… are typical areas capable of this transition process.

     A key factor in successful change is “hope”. (“Don’t give up hope”)  Hope is needed by both the client/patient and his or her support people.  You gotta believe, yet don’t be naïve.

     Hope needs to be based on reality.  Reality entails the commitment and capacity to change, a support system, and a competent therapist. Wishful thinking, co-dependency, half hearted efforts do not get it done.

     Change is possible, but only under certain conditions.  Make sure that they are there if you hope to change or want someone else to change.

     “Some people change, don’t give up hope”!

          “The unexamined life is not worth living”      Socrates

Depressed Men Often Are Silent Suffers. Not Good!

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

     It is common knowledge that men and women are different.  One of the main distinctions is the way in which men and women traditionally handle emotions, particularly depression.

     Women generally are more in touch with their emotions.  When women are depressed they want to talk with someone about these feelings.  Usually  a woman will talk with a friend, her hair stylist, and/or a therapist about what is bothering her.

     Men, on the other hand usually suffer in silence.  And, they pay a price for that! Emotional concerns held in underlie physical health concerns. Men who do not deal with their emotional stressors are more likely to have coronary artery disease, emphysema, be overweight, increased blood pressure, diabetes, have a stroke, and commit suicide than women. Depressed men smoke more, exercise less, isolate, and use more alcohol and illegal drugs to alleviate emotional pain. Repressed emotions come back to haunt men.  These factors become more obvious and impactful as men approach the dreaded “middle age”. Aging and testosterone loss exacerbates the underlying emotional repression.

     Since most men are clueless and/or remain mum about their pervasive sadness, an opportunity exists for caring women to help men discover and deal with their issue.  Signs for women to look for in their men would include:

1. Isolating more than usual: lot of boob tube or electronic game time.

2. Increased mood alteration activities via alcohol or drugs use.

3. Change in sexual behavior: usually decreased libido, sometimes more desirous.

4. Change in eating habits: significantly lower or higher appetite.

5. Sleep disorder

6. Increased irritability or anger outbursts

7. Loss of confidence, difficulty in making decisions.

8. Increased risk taking activities: seeking adrenalin rushes to give short term pleasure. Pornography, affairs, and gambling would be examples.

     Ladies, you can help the man you love, or just tolerate. When you notice that depression symptoms are present be careful how you address it. Minimize questions or criticisms of behavior.  These approaches only make a man more defensive than he normally is. Loving comments of concern are good starting points. 

     If he is totally resistant, confer with a qualified mental health professional who often can help devise a strategy to get men to attend to their issues. This is one of my favorite things to do. I have one strategy that is about ninety per cent successful in getting a man to come in and visit with me. After that it is a matter of connection so that the man feels comfortable and willing to look at these repressed emotions causing depression and poor health habits.

     Depression is serious.  Find ways to address and heal such a condition.  It is very treatable.

“Please Notice Me. Please Touch Me, I Need That!”

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

     When I meet with couples and ask them what is missing in their relationship I hear many concerns, needs not met. Two of the more frequent complaints I hear are about being “noticed” and “touched” by the other.  A deep sadness is inherent in these messages.  What is this all about?

     To “notice” your partner is to say:  “You are very important to me”. “I enjoy being with you”. “That outfit really looks good on you”, “Thanks for doing that”, “How did your meeting go today?”, “Would you like to go out Saturday night?”, etc… You are saying to that person that you are attuned to his/her presence, aware of what is going on in his/her life,  and want him/her to know how special s/he is to you.

     To be “touched” is to put your arm around him/her, hold hands, gentle caress or pat on the fanny, give a massage, gentle or passionate kiss, skin on skin cuddling, make love, etc… These acts are intimacy reach outs – meeting the “touch” needs of your partner.

     These are basic human needs – all part of a special connection you have with your partner. Giving this type of attention serves to enrich and deepen the relationship.

     If such basic needs are not met, the impoverished spouse will go into some type of defense mode:

1. Dry up and withdraw, and probably become passive aggressive to show the underlying hurt and resentment.

2. Be angry and actively hurtful by word or action.

3. Go elsewhere to meet these basic needs.

     As you are reading this, respected reader, what are you thinking and feeling?  Does this apply to you and your relationship?  Could you discuss this with your spouse or would it cause one or both of you discomfort?  At this point are you ready to wrap the garbage with this article so it can disappear?

     I would not be writing about this topic if I did not hear so much complaining about it in counseling sessions.  Yes, this is a topic that is difficult to deal with and discuss with your partner. Yet the absence of being noticed and touched leads to a deep loneliness felt inside when a person allows these oft buried feelings to surface.

     What is it in you that has closed you down from giving that special notice and touch to your partner?  Have you been irreparably hurt so that you have shut down this capacity?  Or is it that you have never learned how to give this gift?  It is worth exploring.

     Most all human beings have a deep capacity to love and be loved.  How is such love best expressed?  Watch a grandparent with his/her young grandchild.  A pure open giving love is shown.  Watch a person with his/her new puppy. How often I have heard a spouse saying that s/he wishes that s/he would be treated as well as the dog is by his/her spouse. Am I saying is that a spouse should treat his/her partner the way s/he treats a grandchild or dog?  Perhaps so. A good start would be to offer genuine welcoming smiles, expressed interest, tender touch, and genuine hugs. Want to try it?

Forgiveness Tips: Free Your Heart to Love!

Monday, October 17th, 2011

     Over the course of life’s trek there are many situations where you may feel hurt or angry in reaction to another’s behavior.  Someone may do something to you, or someone you care about, that in your mind was inappropriate and uncalled for.  Negative feelings and thoughts about that person may be challenging and difficult to put aside. So, what would be a good thing to do?  Retaliate?  The urge is strong.  The decision wrong.

     Forgiveness is a better choice.  Forgiveness is a healthy psychological and spiritual alternative. Here are a few tips to think about as you explore this option:

1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened and know the reasons why such behavior upset you.

2. Decide what you need to do to feel better.  Perhaps you need to address the particular concern or incident with the offending party.

3. Forgiveness does not mean that you condone that person’s behavior nor does it mean that you want some type of reconciliation with that person.  A boundary here may well need to be established.

4. When you have negative feelings developing about this person “change the channel” to some other thought.  You do not want negative energy to continue to reside in your brain. It is not particularly easy to forget, but by not allowing these thoughts and feelings to linger you gradually extinguish them.

5. Give up naïve expectations about how things “should be” or how such persons “should” behave.  “Stuff happens.” Be the “bigger” person.

6. The act of forgiveness is for you, nobody else.  It is for your own internal calm and peace.

7. “Just do it!”

     Further encouraging words:

“The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong”. Gandhi

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you”. Unknown

“To err is human; to forgive, divine” Alexander Pope

Is There a “Scorekeeper” in Your Relationship?

Friday, October 14th, 2011

     Are you a “scorekeeper” in your relationship?  What do I mean by that?  A “scorekeeper” keeps count of what each person does on behalf of the relationship.  Sometimes on a day to day basis.  This person wants to be sure, without a doubt, that his/her partner is doing his or her part.  This person’s tally always makes sure the partner comes up a little short.  This mind set and behavior can be both exhausting and frustrating to both individuals.

     There certainly is a place for responsibility, sharing, and accountability with regard to the various needs and demands of the partnership.  Hopefully, over the course of the relationship each person recognizes what needs to be done and steps up and does what is necessary. 

     Sometimes, or perhaps often, one person does not understand or appreciate what the other does on behalf of the couple’s well being.  Most of the time this misunderstanding person is the husband, who surprisingly enough is usually the “scorekeeper”. Many a time I have heard husbands castigate their stay-at-home wives for not doing enough.

      Have you ever heard the song “MR. MOM by Lonestar?  It is about a man who has lost his job. His wife gets a job and he will stay home with the kids and “watch TV and take long naps; go from hard working dad to being Mr. Mom”.  After being Mr. Mom for a very short time he concludes that he “thought there was nothing to it. Baby, now I know how you feel. What I don’t know is how you do it.  Honey, you’re my hero!”

     Relationships go through many manifestations over the course of time.  Job demands, children’s needs, meals, home upkeep, etc… all call for attention from someone.  Who answers the call and to the extent that the needs are met invite judgment.  Be careful. Usually, not always, each person is doing the best that s/he can.  If you honestly feel that the other person is not doing his/her share, bring it up in an assertive, but non judgmental, manner. Encouragement, gratitude, and compliments are the best response.  Focus on what is being done, not what is missing.  With such a complimentary and supportive couple environment, each person will probably do even more to ensure that s/he is contributing to the overall needs of the family.

     During the course of a committed relationship, one person may in fact be doing more than the other.  During another stage of the relationship the other person may be doing more.  Don’t keep score, be grateful that you have a partner that is there for you and the family and will rise to the occasion based on the presenting needs of the time.