Archive for August, 2014

What Do Your Very Personal “Numbers” Say About You And Your Life?

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

When I ask you what do your “numbers” mean, what comes to mind? Your age? Weight?  Financials? Years married?  Years divorced? Age of your kids? May I add another number for your consideration – HAPPINESS.

As part of my intake when I first meet with a person for counseling I ask the following questions and request that they answer with a number from one to ten on the “happiness scale”. Ten is “heavenly bliss”, zero is the “pits”. The reason I start with numbers is that various people can say a word and it means one thing to them and may mean something else to another. For example a person may say, “ I feel OKAY.” For one person that mean a 7, for another it may mean a 4. Big difference!

  1. Overall, with all aspects of your life considered, what is your rating?
  2. What is your happiness relative to your marriage/significant other relationship?
  3. What is your happiness relative to your relationship with your kids as a parent? (if applicable)
  4. What is your happiness relative to your sexual fulfillment?
  5. What is your health happiness?
  6. What is your financial happiness number?
  7. What is your happiness relative to your career/homemaker?
  8. What is your happiness relative to each of your parents?
  9. What is your happiness relative to your social life?

Then I ask if there are other important areas of their life which affect their happiness – and give it/them a score from one to ten.

These “numbers” give me a quick glimpse as to which areas of the person’s life are sources of happiness and which elicit discontent/depression. Thus, we have a running start to understand the person’s current situation. Each area then is elaborated on to further understand the depth of why such a number comes to mind.

Most people do not reflect often or very deeply as to how happy they are. At best they know how they are feeling on a given day, usually described as a good or bad mood or day. My challenge is to find the underlying sources of their happiness to help them appreciate and enjoy the good “stuff” and work to eradicate the bad “stuff” that brings down their happiness “numbers”.

The “numbers” questions help people to listen to their “gut” as to how happy they are at this stage of their life. Some people’s first answers tend to be higher than they really are because of the defense mechanisms of denial and delusion. These folks want to believe they are in a better place than they really are so that they do not have to feel the pain that exists and deal with the core issues related to such unhappiness.

So, Respected Reader, would you mind answering these questions and give an honest “number” as to how happy you are in each of the areas, as well as your overall happiness number. You may want to discuss these numbers with someone close to you, as well as asking them what their “numbers” are. Could lead to some interesting insights, communication, and steps forward to raise the “numbers”!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”      Socrates

What Do Your Dreams Say About You? This Test May Help You Understand

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Most people are fascinated by dreams. They continually are asking why they occur and what they mean. I am often asked in counseling sessions to give an interpretation of the client’s dream.

In the field of Psychology, dreams became an object of study by the scientific community in the mid 1800’s. Sigmund Freud in 1900 introduced his theory of dreams which emphasized that they were the road to the unconscious. Much of his therapy focused on trying to analyze the meaning of his patient’s dreams. A further scientific advance took place in 1953 when Professor Nathaniel Kleitman at the University of Chicago discovered that a sleeping person’s rapid eye movement (REMs) indicate that he is dreaming.

While I think that oftentimes too much is made out of dream interpretation there is no question but that they are of value in understanding a person. Dreams are symbolic usually. Charlatans con people when they pretend to be all knowing as to what a particular dream or symbol may mean. Be aware of such “all knowing seers”!

The following “test” has been developed by R. Corriere and J. Hart to aid you to better understand what your dream patterns reveal about your personality. Answer each question with a True or False.

  1. I sometimes gain a better understanding of myself through a dream.
  2. My dreams are generally pleasant.
  3. Sometimes I solve a problem through a dream.
  4. I can recall my dreams at least twice a week.
  5. I have the same dream about eight or nine times a year.
  6. I have disturbing dreams or nightmares about eight or nine times a year.
  7. A bad mood from a dream sometimes lingers into the next day for several hours.
  8. I dream in color.
  9. I cry, scream, or shout in my dreams about two or three times per year.
  10. I abruptly awaken from a dream about once a month.

To tally your score, give yourself one point for each response that matches the following answers:           1. True; 2. True; 3. True; 4. True; 5. False; 6. False; 7. False; 8. True; 9. False; 10. False

A score of 8-10 points: Your dreams indicate you are healthy and well-adjusted.                                                        A score of 5-7 points: Your dreams are sometimes disturbing, but that need not indicate a grave problem. Perhaps you are trying to solve a dilemma while you are asleep, or you are preoccupied with some task that must be done the next day.                                                                                                                      A score of 0-4 points: You may be grappling with a problem during the waking state, and because you are unable to find an evident solution, you try to resolve the issue during sleep.

Corrierre and Hart offer the following explanations tied to each question:

  1. Dreams often present a chance to understand our true feelings about something which, in our waking state, may remain hidden from us.
  2. A good feeling during a dream usually indicates that you are content.
  3. Problem-solving in dreams is often reported by productive thinkers who continue to ponder a problem even in their sleep.
  4. Generally speaking, those who can recall at least a portion of their dreams tend to have healthier personalities than those who can’t.
  5. A repetitive dream is a sign that the dreamer is struggling with a vexing problem or conflict and has not yet resolved it.
  6. Dreams that produce strong emotion often reflect the dreamer’s insecurities and fears.
  7. Dream moods that last into the daytime indicate that the dreamer has sentiments that have not been adequately harmonized with the rest of his or her personality.
  8. The tendency to dream in color suggests that the dreamer has rich creative and imaginative skills.
  9. Calm dreams and sound sleep have always been associated with good mental health.
  10. Freud taught that when we awaken abruptly from a dream it is because our internal “dream censor” has been unable to disguise its true meaning, namely, an antisocial wish.

Needless to say there is a lot more that could be said about the topic of dreams. Yes, they exist, come from us internally, and have meaning (which are subject to many a subconscious interpretation). In my practice I find that most dreams are reflections of fears, anxieties, and insecurities or a desire for wish fulfillment.

Sweet dreams!       “The unexamined life is not worth living”     Socrates

Men, Do You Know Your Testosterone Level? You Might Want To!

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Aging is a hot topic, especially amongst Baby Boomers, who generally crave an active life style and sexual fulfillment.  A key element in a man’s vitality is his testosterone level.  Testosterone is a steroid hormone which is made in the testes in males and in the ovaries in women. The hormone production is regulated by hormones released by the brain. In men testosterone plays a key role in the development of male productive tissues such as the testis and prostate as well as promoting secondary sexual characteristics such as increased muscle, bone mass, and growth of body hair.  In addition, testosterone is essential for health and well being, as well as the prevention of osteoporosis.  Some researchers say testosterone levels peek in the teen years, others say around the age of forty. (mid life crisis related?) There appears to be significant variance from one man to another. Testosterone levels typically range from 250 ng/dl and 850 ng/dl.

Since testosterone levels are so important to a man it would seem to be important for a man to know what his testosterone level is.  It is a simple test. Some motivators for checking out your testosterone level would be low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, depression, irritability, limited energy, lack of motivation, etc…  I have counseled many a depressed man and have found that low testosterone often was one of the contributing factors.

Various theorists address the issue of the rapidity of decline of testosterone in men as they age.  A recent study helped to dispel the myth associating age and rate of testosterone decline. “Declining testosterone levels are not an inevitable part of the aging process, as many people think” says Gary Wittert, M.D., co- author of a significant study composed of 1382 men ranging in age from 35 to 80. The biggest factors in testosterone decline were related to obesity, depression, and smoking. Incidentally single men had a greater testosterone decline than married men.  Wittert attributed this to the fact that married men tend to be healthier and happier than unmarried men.  Also, “regular sexual activity tends to increase testosterone”.

If you feel you have the above stated symptoms you may want to go and have your testosterone level checked.  If it comes back low you should have a consultation with your doctor to determine whether various forms of testosterone enhancement are right for you.  Injections, creams, and patches are available.

Certainly there are benefits for some men to raise their testosterone levels.  There are also potential risks involved.  The Mayo Clinic lists these:                                                                                                              1. Contribute to sleep apnea.  2. Cause your body to make too many red blood cells which can increase the risk of heart disease. 3. Cause acne or other skin reactions. 4. Stimulate non cancerous growth of the prostate and possibly stimulate growth of existing prostate cancer. 5. Enlarge breasts. 6. Limit sperm production or cause testicle shrinkage.

Respected Reader, male or interested female in a man’s health and vitality, testosterone is important for a man’s well being and performance. It may well be of value to see what your testosterone level is, just as you, hopefully, regularly have your cholesterol checked. Men need to know all they can about how, and why, their body functions as it does. Knowledge is power!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

“Touchy” Subject: What Kind Of Body Do You Bring To Your Mate?

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

One of the principles I emphasize in relationship related counseling is that each person in the romantic relationship should do his or her best to bring the optimal self to the other. If your partner is the most important person in the world to you then s/he deserves your best. Areas included would be communication, time, and respect.

Often in counseling I hear one spouse say, “He is such a good communicator in his business and with our friends, but he is discourteous when speaking with me.”  Or, “She has time for everybody but me.” It is not unusual for an individual to bring a better self to his/her customers or friends than to his/her spouse.

The “touchy” subject that is the point of emphasis here is the physical body that you present to your spouse day in and day out. Human beings need touch. An incentive to want to touch is the attractiveness of your partner. You probably have heard of the stereotype that once a couple gets married they let themselves go physically. They no longer bring their best to the other as they did so well while dating. Touch in its various expressions becomes less frequent. A certain emptiness results.

Certainly the ravages of time and labor, stress, and health conditions create a body that is not the same as when you were younger and seriously courting. However, each day you have a choice of how you take care of your body.  Taking care of your body would include weight management, grooming and hygiene, breath and teeth care, attire, healthy eating, regular health check-ups, appropriate alcohol consumption, no tobacco use, exercise.

Of course, nobody is perfect in all these areas, but most of us could be better than we are in keeping our body as healthy and attractive as possible.  Your mate deserves that. And, if s/he is not “deserving”     then work on getting a better relationship.

I hope that when you come to counseling to improve your relationship that I not hear the following words.

“I don’t find you attractive anymore. Your fat belly is a turn off.”

“I don’t want to be close to you. Your clothes smell like smoke stack.”

“Your breath reeks, you don’t brush your teeth regularly, and you don’t use your deodorant.”

“I am repulsed and embarrassed when you drink too much.”

“I don’t want to be seen with you when you dress like that.”

“I do not enjoy living with a couch potato who just vegetates and gets soft.”

“I’m not going to be there to take care of you if you don’t take care of yourself and get physicals.”

 

I am most grateful that I live with partner who continually motivates me with her consistent efforts to bring her best to me (which is awesome) in every area of life, including the way she takes care of her health and body.  I am doing my best to reciprocate. Probably could do more. I will!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

“Women Men Love, Women Men Leave”: Provocative Thoughts

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Recently I showcased and amplified a book written by Dr. Barbara De Angelis which tells men what they need to know about women in order to have successful relationships.  Equal opportunity is presented here as two male psychologists write to help women understand men.

In “WOMEN MEN LOVE, WOMEN MEN LEAVE” Drs. Connell Cowan and Melvyn Kinder unravel “the puzzling patterns of man’s needs, fears, and expectations”.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       These insights are designed to help women understand “what makes a man want to make a commitment to a woman… and stay with – forever”.

After an opening chapter discussing why love is “puzzling, the need everyone has for love, and how experiences teach us about love, Drs. Cowan and Kinder, profile women that men LEAVE. There are five types presented.

  1. WOMEN WHO UNKNOWING FEAR INTIMACY.  These are “women who unintentionally block a process that is absolutely necessary for a healthy relationship to endure, the development of intimacy”.  … “Intimacy is a close emotional bond characterized by mutual sharing and understanding.  … It requires a great deal of trust”. If a person is to be open to intimacy one must first love oneself and have confidence.  It this exists a person can overcome the fears of rejection, abandonment, and loss of one’s identity.
  2. HOW INNOCENT EXPECTATIONS BECOME DANGEROUS.  The authors address what would be reasonable expectations in a relationship and those that are unreasonable demands.  When a woman has demands it reflects an intense need rather than wishes or preferences.
  3. WOMEN WHO SECRETLY FEEL CONTEMPT FOR MEN.  Drs. Cowan and Kinder say these women have developed this contempt for men from family and social influences or internal conflict.  Various contemptuous forms would the “the ice queen”, the “competitor”, the “hot number”, the “ball buster”. The authors offer tips to help these women get over their anger.
  4. HOW THE NEED TO CONTROL BACKFIRES. The need to control comes from a woman’s insecurity say the authors.  Forms of control include women who try to “restrict” men’s behavior or “dictate” how he should act. Over monitoring a man’s behavior or excessive caretaking a man are more subtle forms of control.
  5. WOMEN WHO GIVE TOO FREELY.  These are women “who have learned a pattern of giving and self-sacrifice that invariably serves to deplete their emotional resources and, ironically, results in pushing men away – the very outcome they so deeply fear”. These women can be found in the “rescuer”, the “Siamese Twin”, the “Easy Lover”, the “Martyr”, the “Caretaker”.

 

Now that you the Reader know the types of women that men “Leave”, let’s see who the authors present to us that men “Love”. What must a woman do who wants love and commitment from a man?

  1. GIVING UP THE PRINCE AND FINDING THE MAN. Cowan and Kinder state that “the most fundamental key to a man’s passion and his desire to commit himself is a woman’s capacity to understand and accept who he really is. “Who men really are” includes these male forces: “the drive toward autonomy”, “the need to be brave”, “the need to win”, “the need to play”, “the need to be a hero”.
  2. TRUSTING A MAN TO LOVE YOUR STRENGTH. “Men look to women not only for emotional support  but also for inspiration …. as well as intelligence and intuition”. Strength roles of women would include the Partner, Achiever, and the Adviser.
  3. AROUSING A MAN’S PASSION AND DESIRE. “Passion encompasses the myriad expressions of aliveness and intensity in a relationship… passion makes us feel more alive and vibrant”.
    “People who are passionate want to live life to the fullest”.  “Our mates may at times inadvertently suppress our childlike enthusiasm, joy, and passion”. Men like a passionate woman who is his “lover” and “seductress”. The authors encourage women to “assign prominence and priority to sexuality in your life. … You need to enjoy sex and your enjoyment has to be communicated to your partner”.
  4. DEEPENING LOVE THROUGH FRIENDSHIP. “While some people believe the epitome of success in a relationship is reached with passionate and romantic highs, others feel blessed when they find someone who’s a friend and companion – and this is particularly true for men”.  Men feel very fortunate if their mate is their “best friend”. Without that bond of friendship there is a sense of loneliness and separateness in a man.

The book concludes with the “Rules for staying in love” and some “quizzes” about “styles of loving”.  Cowan and Kinder have a lot of real life scenarios from their practices that enflesh these concepts and stereotypes.  The book is provocative and is capable of inspiring deeper communication, and perhaps debate, between men and women.  And there’s nothing wrong with that!!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Recently I showcased and amplified a book written by Dr. Barbara De Angelis which tells men what they need to know about women in order to have successful relationships.  Equal opportunity is presented here as two male psychologists write to help women understand men.

In “WOMEN MEN LOVE, WOMEN MEN LEAVE” Drs. Connell Cowan and Melvyn Kinder unravel “the puzzling patterns of man’s needs, fears, and expectations”.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       These insights are designed to help women understand “what makes a man want to make a commitment to a woman… and stay with – forever”.

After an opening chapter discussing why love is “puzzling, the need everyone has for love, and how experiences teach us about love, Drs. Cowan and Kinder, profile women that men LEAVE. There are five types presented.

  1. WOMEN WHO UNKNOWING FEAR INTIMACY.  These are “women who unintentionally block a process that is absolutely necessary for a healthy relationship to endure, the development of intimacy”.  … “Intimacy is a close emotional bond characterized by mutual sharing and understanding.  … It requires a great deal of trust”. If a person is to be open to intimacy one must first love oneself and have confidence.  It this exists a person can overcome the fears of rejection, abandonment, and loss of one’s identity.
  2. HOW INNOCENT EXPECTATIONS BECOME DANGEROUS.  The authors address what would be reasonable expectations in a relationship and those that are unreasonable demands.  When a woman has demands it reflects an intense need rather than wishes or preferences.
  3. WOMEN WHO SECRETLY FEEL CONTEMPT FOR MEN.  Drs. Cowan and Kinder say these women have developed this contempt for men from family and social influences or internal conflict.  Various contemptuous forms would the “the ice queen”, the “competitor”, the “hot number”, the “ball buster”. The authors offer tips to help these women get over their anger.
  4. HOW THE NEED TO CONTROL BACKFIRES. The need to control comes from a woman’s insecurity say the authors.  Forms of control include women who try to “restrict” men’s behavior or “dictate” how he should act. Over monitoring a man’s behavior or excessive caretaking a man are more subtle forms of control.
  5. WOMEN WHO GIVE TOO FREELY.  These are women “who have learned a pattern of giving and self-sacrifice that invariably serves to deplete their emotional resources and, ironically, results in pushing men away – the very outcome they so deeply fear”. These women can be found in the “rescuer”, the “Siamese Twin”, the “Easy Lover”, the “Martyr”, the “Caretaker”.

 

Now that you the Reader know the types of women that men “Leave”, let’s see who the authors present to us that men “Love”. What must a woman do who wants love and commitment from a man?

  1. GIVING UP THE PRINCE AND FINDING THE MAN. Cowan and Kinder state that “the most fundamental key to a man’s passion and his desire to commit himself is a woman’s capacity to understand and accept who he really is. “Who men really are” includes these male forces: “the drive toward autonomy”, “the need to be brave”, “the need to win”, “the need to play”, “the need to be a hero”.
  2. TRUSTING A MAN TO LOVE YOUR STRENGTH. “Men look to women not only for emotional support  but also for inspiration …. as well as intelligence and intuition”. Strength roles of women would include the Partner, Achiever, and the Adviser.
  3. AROUSING A MAN’S PASSION AND DESIRE. “Passion encompasses the myriad expressions of aliveness and intensity in a relationship… passion makes us feel more alive and vibrant”.
    “People who are passionate want to live life to the fullest”.  “Our mates may at times inadvertently suppress our childlike enthusiasm, joy, and passion”. Men like a passionate woman who is his “lover” and “seductress”. The authors encourage women to “assign prominence and priority to sexuality in your life. … You need to enjoy sex and your enjoyment has to be communicated to your partner”.
  4. DEEPENING LOVE THROUGH FRIENDSHIP. “While some people believe the epitome of success in a relationship is reached with passionate and romantic highs, others feel blessed when they find someone who’s a friend and companion – and this is particularly true for men”.  Men feel very fortunate if their mate is their “best friend”. Without that bond of friendship there is a sense of loneliness and separateness in a man.

The book concludes with the “Rules for staying in love” and some “quizzes” about “styles of loving”.  Cowan and Kinder have a lot of real life scenarios from their practices that enflesh these concepts and stereotypes.  The book is provocative and is capable of inspiring deeper communication, and perhaps debate, between men and women.  And there’s nothing wrong with that!!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates