Archive for July, 2013

Do You Like Yourself? Really? Check Out What Real High Esteem Is All About!

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

Research and clinical experience consistently point out that it is difficult to be happy when you do not like yourself. Respected Reader, pause for a moment and ask yourself that question.  Do not analyze, just listen to your gut reaction.  And the answer is?

Most people have parts of themselves that they don’t like.  Don’t like categories may include physical appearance, academic or professional failures, disappointing behaviors, failing relationships, etc… Unfortunately some people let the undesirable facets of their lives take over their entire self and, thus, make an overall negative assessment of themselves.  The outcome of this is low self esteem.  People with low self esteem rarely become their best well rounded selves carrying such a negative belief.

People with low self esteem too often do not see the big picture.  They overlook many positive qualities and characteristics that they possess.  They need to re-focus their perspective.  This process begins with an understanding of what past experiences have led them to such a conclusion.  Once that is done a person can heal and re-frame such thoughts and feelings and move forward to a healthy loving, and liking, of oneself.

Self loathing can come from a variety of sources.  If you were not parented in a healthy loving manner you may conclude that you are not lovable. You may have physical attributes that dismay you.  You may have suffered some hurtful rejections.  You may not feel you measure up to your contemporaries in some manner or form.

Self talk is important here.  What you tell yourself gets embedded in your brain.  You are continually “wiring” your brain as you perceive and process your experiences.  Optimism and pessimism play a part in such processing. Do you know your inclination along this line?

If you are a pessimist you will take a few of your undesirable facets and generalize them to your whole self and, thus, wallow in your low self esteem.  If you are a healthy optimist you will recognize that you have some weaknesses, will do your best to overcome them, and realize that overall you are a special person  – your core self is special!

In my practice I encourage low self esteem people to use affirmations as part of their self talk.  I ask my client/patient to bring me a long list of all the positive qualities that s/he possesses.  Secondly I ask that person to read it to me.  Then take this list home and read it every day, preferably in the morning to begin the day on a positive feel good note. Such repetitive affirmation can make a positive difference in the perception of who you are and how you feel about yourself..

Another aspect to empower an enhanced self esteem is to focus on gratitude.  What are you grateful for in life – and in each and every day?  You probably have much to be grateful for – if you could just see it. What you focus on, pay attention to, “wires” the brain with the consequent feelings.

People with high self esteem learn to nurture themselves.  Without being selfish they find ways to nurture their well being.  They “vote” for themselves without having to disenfranchise others.  They take care of themselves – physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

One more tip, focus on your character.  Become a person who thinks of ways to care for other people and consistently demonstrates it in positive behaviors.  As you become a better person so you will appreciate and believe that you are a good and likeable person. You will have an enhanced character – and become someone you can truly love!  These efforts are worth it because you are worth it!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Do You Have Trust Isssues? Trust Can Be Repaired! Here’ How

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Trust can be destroyed in many ways by a variety of people in many life situations. When trust is broken the violated one often puts up protective walls and establishes boundaries that say “Do not enter!” Such defenses may be expressed with angry push aways or hurt withdrawals.

Trust can be destroyed in marriages around such issues as money, sex, abuse – and more.  Trust can be seriously damaged in families by bad parenting and irresponsible kids – and more.  Trust can deteriorate friendships by certain hurtful verbiage or actions – and more. Trust can be violated by dishonest business and financial transactions – and more.

In some cases when trust has been broken the true character of the offender becomes clear.  In such cases it may be wise to keep the wall up – the boundary maintained.  The same holds true when irreparable damage has been done and the violated person feels that s/he is not willing, or capable,  to be open to that individual.

There are many situations, however, where the victim of the trust violation desires to heal the relationship and re-establish trust with the dishonest trust-breaker who also wants to re-establish a healthier relationship.

In such situations where trust is to be renewed and the infractions healed, certain steps may be taken to give the best opportunity for success.  A few of these would be:

  1. An openness by both parties to re-connect.
  2. An apology by the trust violator
  3. An acceptance of the apology by the violated one.
  4. Establish good communication that would clarify the process of healing and building trust.

When I facilitate or mediate such a trust re- connection I ask the violated one what s/he needs from the violator to begin the process of healing the wound and opening up again to that person.  If the violator can agree to these conditions then the healing process can begin.

Such a re-building process takes time, sometimes a very long time.  The desired, and agreed upon, conditions need to take place with consistency over a period of time.  If this happens the violated one can begin to lower the walls and slowly let the other in with some degree of trust.

Depending on the extent and the severity of the trust infraction it may be wise to use a Mediator who could move the process forward with the minimum display of anger, blaming or other negative verbiage and actions that could detour or destroy the process.

When trust has been broken the individuals need to search their souls to see if they really want to attempt the re-building of trust. Is a positive outcome desired? And possible?

In my practice I witness many a tarnished relationship where trust has been broken.  I encourage each person to give it a try so that some healing may occur, especially if the situation necessitates some form of continued interaction.  In most cases a healed relationship is a better outcome than staying distrustful.

Respected Reader, do you have broken relationships because of trust violations?  Were you the victim or the violator?  Do you want to work on re-building trust? It may be worth a try!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Do You Know Who Your “God” is and From Whence S/he Has Come? A Question Worth Asking Yourself!

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

My office is called the Stathas Life Development Center. It is named that for a reason. It is not simply as counseling/therapy office. I believe in, and am committed to, a total wellness approach in assisting people to reach their full potential and optimal happiness.

Wellness, aka holistic health, involves looking at every dimension of an individual’s life. Areas included are physical, intellectual, psychological, social, relational, and spiritual. Yes, spiritual is included. A person’s spiritual dimension, including beliefs and practices, affect emotions and behavior and impact how a person thinks about and relates to others.

My life’s journey in quest of holistic health and understanding its derivatives has included a spiritual quest. It led me to five years of theological and scriptural study in the seminary and an active ministry for a few years as a “man of God”. This spiritual quest has led to an exhaustive study of how the Bible was formed, the development of various religions over the course of time, and assisting people in finding a spiritual understanding that brings out the best of who they can possibly be.

One of the most enlightening books that I have ever read has been “A HISTORY OF GOD” by Karen Armstrong. It was a number one on the New York Times bestseller list for a long time. The research that went into the book was daunting, and a bit exhausting in its depth. But, oh so enlightening!

“A HISTORY OF GOD” traces the evolution of the concept of “God” from the beginning of time through the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In its historical roots it is amazing how much the three religions overlap in some basic concepts related to an understanding of “God”. The book also displays the diversity of belief and understanding over time. “God” has been understood in many forms and fashions over history that has resulted in beliefs, dogmas, and practices that have changed and evolved over the centuries.

A common question that is reached by most readers at the end of this reading is: Has “God” changed over time or have people and cultures over time created the “God” that best fits the times? It is a question worth reflection.

Even over the past couple of hundred years you can see how continued separation of beliefs and worships develop through denominational schisms. A brief peek at each religion.

Christianity has grown in many directions since its inception from the life of Jesus Christ.  Up through the Middle Ages the Church was divided between Catholic and Orthodox. Later, Henry the Eighth was disgruntled with the Catholic Church teachings and wanted to marry again though divorced, thus the Anglican Church. The Episcopal Church is a branch off of it.  Martin Luther didn’t like indulgences, the primacy of the Pope, celibacy etc… so he broke from the Catholic Church and created the Lutheran religion. John Wesley, a disillusioned Anglican priest, co-founded the Methodist Church. The Baptist formation is less clear. Most scholars point to John Smyth who in the 17th century started a Separatist  church breaking off from the Church of England. The Bible in its various books, differing within denominations, is the sacred text.

The Jewish tradition has evolved into separated denominations since its formation in 2000 BC. They are Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed. The sacred texts are  the Torah, Tanakh, and Talmud

The Islam religion was founded by Muhammad in the 6th century. Muhammad was the last of the Judao-Christian prophets who was given the “Word of God” when visited by the Archangel Gabriel. The sacred text is the Quran.This religion also has also gone through its own diverse practices as it has spread over the many countries.

The reason for this treatise is to encourage you, Respected Reader, to know the history of the God you may believe in and to see if it continues to meet your intellectual and spiritual needs. Do the particular representatives, tenets, practices, worship services, etc… challenge you to become the best person you can be?  Perhaps your particular enculturated religion has not been reviewed for the beliefs and practices that serve you and your family. This writing in no way is not to advocate any position but to challenge you to know your spiritual history and that of other spiritual perspectives and make a choice that is right for you. Your spirituality is part of a well “developed” human being.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

Do You Have a Habit You Want to Change? Here’s How!

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Respected Reader, do you have any habit that you would like to stifle, change, or stop? Habit, as used here, is based on a definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary. A habit “is an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary”.

Certainly you have heard the expression that we are “creatures of habit”. That we are. Habits are learned behaviors that are healthy and productive for us or unhealthy and destructive in our lives.

The focus for this article is an unhealthy habit that you may want to change.  Examples might be related to eating, drinking, smoking, shopping, gambling, etc… beyond what you would prefer.  You have decided to modify or completely change this undesirable habit.  Here’s how.

The first step is AWARENESS that you have this habit and want to change it. Secondly, you must make a COMMITMENT to doing so.  The third step is STRATEGY.  IMPLEMENTATION then must take place with resolve. Lastly, a built in ACCOUNTABILITY should be added.

To change a negative habit you have to learn more about it.  I suggest you start a daily JOURNAL that would include thoughts and feeling that may elicit the undesirable behavior.  Thoughts and feelings are the triggers that lead to the bad habit choice.  These thoughts and feelings might include boredom, loneliness, stress, anxiety, sadness, anger, guilt, or fear.  These are all negative emotions in the brain caused by thoughts that are in some way painful.  The natural response to pain is to change or stop it.  The behavior chosen is the key – a healthy or unhealthy one.

Since your brain has been wired to go in a certain direction it must be changed.  We now know through the study of the brain that neuroplasticity is a reality.  We can change our brain wiring. (For those interested in examining this further I recommend two books: EVOLVE YOUR BRAIN by Dr. Joe Dispenza and CHANGE YOUR BRAIN, CHANGE YOUR LIFE by Dr. Daniel Amen).

By keeping your journal your enhanced AWARENESS will give you the insight as to why, when, where, and how you chose this undesirable habit.  Your analysis of this can lead to asking yourself, “What is the pay-off for me to continue this habit?  What is the outcome of continually doing this habit?

Continuing with this desire to change you then find a healthy habit (behavior) to substitute for the unhealthy one when these negative thoughts and feelings enter your brain consciousness.  A couple of examples would be exercise, meditation, reading, calling a friend, sensual pleasure, something humorous.

 

Raised AWARENESS,or consciousness, is very important in this process.  As soon as you are aware that you are about to choose a bad habit, STOP yourself as soon as possible and switch to a positive habit.  When doing this you are slowly extinguishing or eroding the negative neurological pathway (habit) and creating a new and more positive one.  The more you do this you are following the Hebbian principle of “what fires together, wires together”. The more you pay attention, attend, to a particular thought/feeling the more you strengthen it as a part of your brain repertoire.

Next, I encourage you to tell another person what you are going to accomplish. This positive expectation shared with another helps with motivation.  You want your word to mean something and thus you are more likely to succeed if you are ACCOUNTABLE to someone else.  “Walk your talk”!

Well, are you ready to take on one of your bad habits?  I hope so because you can be a positive change agent in how you live your life. It is exciting to know that you can train your brain, change habits, and be more of the person you want to be!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”        Socrates

Are You Smart Enough To Train Your Brain and Slow Down Its Deteriorization?

Friday, July 5th, 2013

Fair warning, this is a “cerebral” writing.  If you are “stupid”, lazy, or topic disinterested, do not read any further. This article is for bright people who want to maximize their brain efficiency and slow its neurological deterioration. The brain is the driving force of everything you feel, think, and do. The brain is more malleable than you may think.  Neuroplasticity, the ability to modify and change the brain, is a reality.

To change the brain a number of factors are needed. I will focus on four of these:

Consciousness, Capacity, Knowledge, Techniques.  Each is important.

Consciousness, according to Dr. Dean Ornish, is a form of energy that goes far beyond what the brain actually does. This energy of consciousness routinely is aware of what is going on in our body and environment and is structured within the concept of time. Dr. Joe Despenza elaborates on this by saying that a person can mentally do certain exercises that raise one’s consciousness further to such a degree that the body and environmental factors are no longer attended to.  The person is this graduated state is only aware of thoughts. This ability mastered allows a person to begin to re-wire the brain.

(Other noteworthy authors addressing Consciousness would be Drs. David Hawkins and Eckhart Tolle)

Capacity to do this varies greatly among peoples and cultures. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs reminds us that unless certain basic needs are met a person is not able to rise to a greater capacity of experience.  There are physical and psychological pre-requisites that must be present in order to reach a capacity that would enable you to begin to re-wire the brain.

Knowledge of brain functioning is important in order to learn how to “train your brain”. An important principle, developed by Dr. Hebb, is that brain “nerve cells that fire together, wire together”.  The more one thinks a particular thought the stronger the neurological connection is made within the brain. This has significant memory ramifications. It is desirable to be able to “delete” painful memories and reinforce those that are positive.

Techniques are needed to accomplish this goal to “train the brain”. There are certain available techniques to move the brain through states of activity. These four states of brain activity are Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta. Each one of these brain wave states is important and necessary for a rested, healthy, and creative mind. An example of brain manipulation or change from one brain wave state to another are certain methods of meditation.

I could elaborate on all of the above and the importance of each for effective brain training.  I am aware (conscious) that most of you have either put this article down already, glazed over, or fallen asleep (Delta state). For those of higher capacity and tenacity to comprehend and get excited about the personal opportunity to “train your brain”, I salute you and encourage you to investigate further the practice of brain training and re-wiring the brain. To the extent that you are able to do this you will create new brain cells and postpone the aging process of brain deterioration.  That would appear to be sufficient motivation for those so inclined.

Bottom line here is that I want you to know that brain neuroplasticity is real and there are opportunities available to learn how to do this.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”     Socrates