Archive for May, 2015

Are You An Optimist Or A Pessimist? It Matters!

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

Do you know if you are an optimist or a pessimist? If so, how do you know? The Optimist expects the best possible outcome and dwells on the most hopeful aspects of a situation.  The Pessimist has a tendency to stress the negative or unfavorable, or to take the gloomiest possible view of a situation.

Here are reasons why you want to do your best to be an optimist:

  1. Optimists live longer and are less likely to require permanent care. Optimists live roughly 8-10 years longer than pessimists.
  2. Optimists enjoy more love. They have more satisfying and longer lasting relationships than pessimists.
  3. Optimists have better careers. Optimists found more jobs and were more likely to be promoted than pessimists.
  4. Optimists tend to be more mentally stable and have less stress than pessimists.

Dr. Martin Seligman, a foremost psychologist, researcher, and writer, is credited with being the father of positive psychology. His book, Learned Optimism, is a classic in the field of mental health. He teaches techniques to develop optimism.

Research indicates that optimism or pessimism is twenty five per cent determined by genetics.  The other seventy five per cent is determined by environment, social support, and learned behaviors. Thus, Seligman’s approach has significant viability in helping people learn to be optimists.

The following is a quick quiz that I found on the internet to help you determine if you are an optimist or a pessimist. Here is a sampling:

Answer “I agree a lot”, “I agree a little”, “I neither agree or disagree”, “I disagree a little”, I disagree a lot” to the following questions.

  1. In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.
  2. It’s easy for me to relax.
  3. If something can go wrong for me, it will.
  4. I’m always optimistic about my future.
  5. I enjoy my friends a lot.
  6. It’s important for me to keep busy.
  7. I hardly expect things to go my way.
  8. I don’t get upset to easily.
  9. I rarely count on good things happening to me.
  10. Overall, I expect more good things to happen to me than bad.

 

My goal here is for you to reflect on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist. Feel free to get opinion from those who know you well. I encourage you to do your best to become an optimist, one who “sees the glass half full, not half empty”.  It is a better way to live – and a longer way to live!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

My Journey From Loneliness To Solitude

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Many moons ago, in a previous lifetime I had a life changing way of being. I made a transition from feeling lonely to experiencing solitude when experiencing alone time. Let me elaborate. I was raised a Catholic in Green Bay, Wisconsin. There are two, and only two “religions” in Green Bay – Catholicism and the Packers. The order of importance may fluctuate based on how the Packers were doing in a particular season!

My growing in Green Bay, attending Catholic schools from first grade through high school, and having a Father as a Director of the Packers, “enculturated” me, deep in my being, to love both and see them as my future vocation. I didn’t make the team of my first choice, the Packers, so I “chose” to be on the priestly team of Catholicism. I had been told by many of the priestly and nun faculty that I was “called” by God to serve him as a priest. Who could renounce such a sacred calling!

Thus, after an attempted diversion of a four year degree in Economics (what was I thinking!) from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, I headed off to the seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Brrrrrr!  It was like a prison there for my five years of matriculation. We got up at 6 a.m. and walked in darkness through the snow drifts to the Chapel where we meditated, chanted, and worshiped this God who “called” me into His service. We were not allowed to talk much (“magnum silentiam”) and we could not leave the hallowed ground except for Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. (I do have to admit that I did sneak out on occasion. I missed Wisconsin brew and brat!).

My point in sharing this background with you is to make two points. One that your background, growing up experience, deeply enculturates you, wires you, toward a “programmed” future involving significant choices made. The second point that I want to make is the feeling that you experience when you are alone, I mean really alone!

Living such an isolated monastic life left me feeling extremely lonely! I missed certain people – family, friends, a romantic relationship – and a more robust life of adventure. Over time I moved from painful  loneliness to satisfying solitude. I began enjoying my alone time. I read voraciously. (One of the books that I read was “How to be your own best friend” It worked!) Becoming manager of the book store allowed me to import literature that was beyond the bounds of my Catholic indoctrination – the party line. I came to better understand how religions were formed, how the various Christian sects developed and divided – how the notion of God had changed over time. This was freeing to me. However, after wearing the priestly collar for a while I decided that I could no longer preach that which I did not believe. This was not an easy choice, leaving the opulence of clerical life to the squalor of a $50 dollar a month garage apartment while in Graduate School. Solitude was my friend as I moved forward, though moments of loneliness crept in during this transition.

My choice of solitude has served me well over the years. It has helped me dig deep inside of myself to make significant life changes. Loneliness or solitude is a choice. Solitude is a better place to be!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

Do You Take Things Personally? Don’t! Here’s Why & How!

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

One of the hardest things for most people is to not take certain life experiences in an overly personal way. I find this one is a challenge for the clients I see and it is a challenge for me personally.

A recent event has made is abundantly clear that I am “thin skinned” in certain ways. I have a very protective personality when I or someone special to me is wronged. I tend to take both of these instances personally. The hurt “sticks in my craw” (whatever that is!?). It’s hard to let go.

Life’s reality is that people do things to hurt other people. (insight of the week!). It is human nature to be resentful and protect yourself and other significant people in your life. The urge is to retaliate in some form or fashion – hurt the other person back. That generally doesn’t work very well.

Instead of retaliation I recommend and do my best to practice three steps:

  1. Tell your truth. Don’t hold it in. “The truth shall set you free”. People that hurt other people should have their infraction called out. One it lets other people be aware so that they do not get wronged in similar fashion. Perhaps, too, the hurtful person may realize more clearly what has been done and will apologize and rectify the wrong – and, perhaps, not do it again.
  2. Put a boundary between you and the hurtful persons. They cannot be trusted so do not be vulnerable. If you must interact with them, be courteous, but keep your distance.
  3. Let go. Do not obsess over it. It is negative energy that does not serve your brain well. I try to keep positive thoughts in my mind toward people. When a hurtful person’s act is stuck in my mind, I work hard to get it out. “Change the channel”. A better way to live. Sometimes it takes longer than desired to release the thoughts and emotions related to the hurtful incident.

Miguel Ruiz has written a well known book entitled THE FOUR AGREEMENTS: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO PERSONAL FREEDOM.  The “four agreements” are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY. Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.
  3. Don’t make assumptions. (You’ve heard the phrase, “When you assume, you make an ass of u and me”)
  4. Always do your best.

How about you, Respected Reader? Do you take things overly personally? Are you holding on to grudges and bad feelings related to past hurts? A better way is to “let go, let God”! Good luck. It is not easy, believe me!

Do You And Your Spouse Fight Over Any Of These Topics? Check ’em Out!

Monday, May 11th, 2015

In my professional, and personal, life, I try to prevent discord, hurt, bad feelings between people – especially for those who purportedly love each other.  There is enough pain and misery through life’s travails without having your love life be a battle zone. So, in the hope of prevention I will list here areas of conflict that I have witnessed between two people who are trying to make a relationship work. This is offered in the hopes that it will offer some insight to those who are struggling with one or more of these issues, as well as those who are smartly doing their “due diligence” with regard to a potential committed relationship.  The areas are not offered in any particular order of significance, nor are they meant to be exhaustive in explanation. Each one could have much more said about it. I will try to outline a few key aspects.

  1. PERSONALITY: Each human being develops a personality based on his/her genetics and life experiences. Some of the variables would be introvert/extrovert; controller/pleaser; emotional expressive/retentive; left/right brain oriented; driven/easy going; patient/impatient; toucher/non toucher; empathic/stoic; open/closed.  Each of these, and others, has a significant impact on whether a relationship is compatible or not. Some combinations go much better together than others. Believe me!
  2. COMMUNICATION: aggressive/assertive/unassertive/passive aggressive; eye contact; listening skills; feedback capability.
  3. Finances: how much needed/desired; saver/spender; planner/spontaneous; priorities; family models.
  4. SEX: high/low sex drive; emotional connectability; expressive/restrained; quantity; quality; roles; positions; timing.
  5. Leisure Activities: life style compatability; hobbies; interests; shared/individual; indoor/outdoor preference.
  6. Children: Wanted or not; number of; birth control method.
  7. Parenting Style: expectations; consequences; consistency; roles.
  8. Conflict Resolution: willingness; initiator/retreater; style; timing; compromise.
  9. In Laws and Extended Family: relationship quality; time spent; roles; holidays; visits.
  10. Spiritual Orientation: religion; practices; beliefs; compatability.
  11. Roles and Responsibilities: who does what, when, and how; fair; score keeping; nagging.
  12. Alone and Together Issues: how much time together; independence/co-dependence.
  13. Intimacy: emotional vulnerability to the other; letting defensive mechanisms down.
  14. Career: Who does what; how long; travel; moves; good fit; satisfaction;
  15. Future Vision: shared planning and creating capability and functioning.

Well, Respected Reader, did I miss any of yours?  What do you think?  Have you had disagreements about any of these issues?  Could you see that there is a possibility of conflict within any of these areas? I would be glad to elaborate on any of them should you desire.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

Motherhood: A Body And Soul Adventure!

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

This week culminates with the celebration of Mother’s Day – a day to honor deserving mothers.  My mother Betty is living.  My wife Sherry is a mother.  Our daughter Brittany is a mother. Some thoughts on being a Mother from a grateful son, husband, and father! And therapist.

I am fascinated with life’s unfolding of a human being, including the stages reached and the adjustments made over the course of a lifetime.  No person goes through more physical, emotional, and spiritual changes than a mother.

Perhaps the journey begins with “Ohmygod, I’m late – missed my period!” Is that good or bad news? Depends on the readiness state and stage of the girl/woman involved.

Conception has happened. Her whole being is stirred up. The body expands, breasts and belly, getting ready to welcome and nurture the child. Emotions run the gamut as hormones and life situations play out. The spiritual element of being a co-creator of a baby can be exhilarating. The miracle of life!

The bittersweet painful and joyous birth is deeply experienced- hopefully accompanied by a loving mate and eager-to-be father. Together a loving couple welcomes their child into the universe. This is the ideal, I know, but the ideal is always the goal.

As the child grows, develops, and tastes the varied menu of what life serves up, a mother is “with” the child like no other. The child came from her body where, hopefully, she nurtured him/her with a healthy life style and a loving welcoming heart.

Infancy, nursing, the during the night “get ups”, the “terrible twos”, playtime, day care, going off to kindergarten, middle school, puberty with all its upheaval, high school drama, and “where did the time go” empty nest” – and all the varied events and emotions therein- significantly impact a mother.  And mothering is not finished here, even as the adult child moves on through life.  Mothering continues forever.

Highs and lows, fear, anger, sadness, sacrifices, incredible joy – wrapped in love are a mother’s journey.  Hopefully the trail has been one mostly of happiness and overcome sorrows.  Hopefully, the child has matured into a loving, responsible, happy, and grateful adult.  Hopefully, the child/adult is appreciative of what his/her mother has put into her job of parenting. Hopefully, the child’s father is grateful for what the mother has given the child, and him, through her efforts.

And, hopefully, sons, daughters, and mates will join me in a well deserved

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Thank you, Mom and Sherry for your nurturing motherly gifts! I have benefitted!

 

P.S. If you are a mother who has not done a good job of mothering yet- please turn it around and be the wonderful mother you are capable of being and receive the commendations worthy of your efforts.