Archive for June, 2015

“Whacked Out” Moments: “OMG, What Was I Thinking!”

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Have you ever reacted in a way that you were not proud? Maybe you said, “OMG, I can’t believe I just did that!”  Of course you have. Generally the reason is an emotional overload. The “gatekeeper” in your brain failed you. Let me attempt to explain.

The brain has many aspects to it with various functions to keep us on track. One area of the brain is called the Cingulate Gyrus. It has a gatekeeper function to prevent emotional overload which leads to a response that usually is not desired or warranted. It is located in the middle area of the brain separating your left and right brain. As you know the left side of the brain is the rational and logical side of the brain. The right side of the brain houses the limbic area which contains the emotional components. When we have a “whacked out” moment our emotions were so strong that they blew right through the gatekeeper, Cingulate Gyrus, portion of the brain so that a more rational behavior was not able to emerge.

It is important to know what situation “triggers” emotional overload leading to an impulsive behavior, usually regretted. Each of us has “triggers” that hit us emotionally and lead to these “whacko moments”. We want to keep the “gatekeeper” strong so that impertinent behavior does not break through. Traumatic experiences, alcohol, drugs, etc… break down the gate so they must be avoided if at all possible.

Typical “triggers” emanate from early childhood experiences or later traumatic hurts such as PTSD  events. These could include abandonment, rejection, excessive criticism, “not good enough” messages, abuse from parents or significant others. PTSD experiences could be wartime trauma, physical or sexual assault, witnessing some horrible event, etc…

It is important to know your emotional wiring all the way back to, and especially, early childhood. Everyone has some buried emotional baggage held in the limbic portion of the brain that can be “triggered” forth when the right stimulus evokes it.

A few examples might help here.

  1. Alice criticizes Bob and Bob “sees red” and goes off on Alice with an angry rant. Bob was criticized severely by his Father and when Alice criticized him, his irrational right brain felt the buried “trigger” of his Dad and thus lashed out at Alice because it felt the same as his early childhood experience. A “whacko” lash out. The “gatekeeper” failed.
  2. Charlie and Donna were at a social gathering. Charlie spent most of the evening talking to his buddies and had a few flirtatious moments with other women at the party. When they got home Donna went off on him for leaving her alone.  In this case Donna’s parents divorced early on and her Father rarely saw her and her Mother wasn’t around much because she was either working or dating. When Charlie didn’t spend time with her at the party Donna’s  abandonment emotional memory was triggered and she went on this tirade. A “whacko” moment. The “gatekeeper” failed.
  3. Ernie was in a parking lot outside Publix. He was putting his groceries in the car when all of the sudden he heard a loud noise. He hit the ground. It turned out one car had crashed into another one row over. The loud sound had triggered his Iraq military experience when he was in a Jeep and a bomb went off near him. The sound was embodied in his limbic right brain and the noise “triggered” his irrational response of falling to the ground. Another  embarrassing “whacko” over response to the situation. The “gatekeeper failed”.

Respected Reader, I invite you to get in touch with your deepest hurtful or scarring moments. Know that they are present in your right brain so be aware of any stimulus situation in which you may be vulnerable to an irrational “whacko” response if your “gatekeeper” doesn’t keep you in check.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Live Happier: Ten Things To STOP Doing Now!

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

The path of happiness, who doesn’t want to be on that walkway! Trouble is that many people do not know how to get on that path. In my own humble way I try to offer various trails to get on that path of well-being. In some cases I try to present things to start doing. Here, I will focus on what you should STOP doing. Recently I came across and article by Jeff Haden that was entitled as such and offered some good tips. I will list them and offer my own commentary.

  1. BLAMING: The blame game is self defeating. To know what has caused something bad is one thing, but to go on an blame is a cop out for not getting on with what needs to be done to be more effective, both personally and professionally.
  2. IMPRESSING:  Your clothes, bling, car, possessions, accomplishments are just “things”. When you need to impress you are focusing on the superficial, not the real substantial you. Substance is where the good stuff is and where a depth of connection takes place.
  3. CLINGING: When you are afraid and/or insecure you hold on tightly to someone or something. That  behavior, coming from weakness, is not attractive or effective for developing a good relationship.
  4. INTERRUPTING: This is rude. Stop it. Better to focus on what is said, listen well, ask questions, and make sure you understand what is being said.
  5. WHINING: This is so unattractive and not helpful in finding a solution to what is bothering you, that which you are whining about. Better to change the focus from what is wrong to finding a solution, making things better.
  6. CONTROLLING: If you try to control someone you are saying that your ideas, opinions, etc… are the only right way and are more important than the other person’s. Good luck with that!
  7. CRITIZING: It doesn’t work! Criticism is negative and only makes the other person defensive and, therefore, less effective. Positively presenting your needs, desires, goals, etc… are going to be more welcomed than criticism and will lead to a better result.
  8. PREACHING: This falls together with criticism and judgment. You think you are better and wiser.  There is no need for you to be a know-it-all person. You will turn away those who do not like to be talked down to. Only pulpit dwellers have the right to preach! Your “high horse” doesn’t cut it.
  9. DWELLING: Let it go!  Harping on yesterday is a waste of time and energy. “You can’t move forward if your head is turned backward. Learn from the past and move on!
  10. FEARING:  Don’t let fears hold you back. Fear has low energy and keeps you stuck. Do something! Hopefully your moving ahead has been well thought out and has a high probability of success.
  11. OTHERS: Do some self reflection or invite people who care about you to suggest, lovingly, what else you might stop.

Respected Reader, I hope this has been helpful in your progress for becoming the best you can be!

How Men And Women’s Relationship Changes Over Time. It Ain’t Pretty!

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

In my practice over the years certain stereotypes emerge in my working with individuals and couples. People change and develop in various ways and styles over a lifetime.  Genetics, life experiences, and aging combine together to position a person toward a certain way of acting.

This writing focuses on the changing nature and style of stereotypical middle to upper socio-economic class couples. In such a scenario in the early years of marriage the man, as the “head” of the family tends to make the “big” decisions as to income production. Usually his income his higher than his wife’s and this may dictate where the couple lives, since job promotions often including moving from one location to another. The compliant wife goes along with such decisions, being the glue that keeps family and home together. The couple is busy with many demanding obligations and activities. Rarely is time devoted to nurturing the relationship. Weekly dates and occasional getaways are not a part of this couple’s life.

In the bedroom the man usually is aggressive fueled by high testosterone. The wife more often than not (although not enough for the man’s horny libido) tends to go along with his advances. Sometimes, she even welcomes and enjoys the sexual encounter.

I know, I know, this isn’t everyone’s reality, but I can assure you that it is many a couple’s reality. So now let’s move to the same couple, stereotypically, many years later.

The husband has retired or is close to it. The couple has settled into what is probably their last home. The wife has found her niche. She enjoys her home and the way she manages it. She has a people network of friends and possibly co-workers.  She feels very good about herself and her life at this time.

The husband is around more – too much for many a woman who feels he has invaded her domain. She has valued her alone time in her castle. He is restless, somewhat bored.  He no longer has the camaradarie from his work environment and is trying to find companionship through sporting or volunteer involvement. They do not have much in common so that their empty relationship is masked while socializing with the crowd. Alcohol intake usually has risen beyond previous levels.

In the bedroom it is a different story from earlier times. If the man is still in the couple’s boudoir, not having been kicked out for snoring, the love-making is rare. This is because his libido is limping and menopause has changed her desire and capacity. They may snuggle occasionally and he may still try to get through his wife’s reluctance ramped up by an ED medication. He still wants some sensuous touch. She would rather not be bothered.

Psychologically their temperaments have changed. She is more direct, assertive, and often controlling. He is more subdued, perhaps melancholic, and somewhat needy. Over the years they have somewhat flip-flopped in their personalities.

Respected Reader, I will again emphasize that this is a stereotype version based on how many couples act and react over the years. This may not fit your reality. It is offered to describe a certain number of couples in hopes that they may recognize themselves and make the necessary adjustment in their relationship. This is also presented as a preventative foreshadowing to some so that they do not walk down this lonely path where couples keep missing a deeper connection.

For those of you who have adjusted well over the years of your relationship, congratulations. Relationship maintenance and growth over the years can be challenging. Hopefully the love, commitment, and basic compatability that you have will carry you forward to a shared life of enjoyment.

For those of you who have distanced from your previous marriage and now developing a new one, do your best to not emulate the stereotype described here. You can do better!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”     Socrates

Father’s Day Note To Fathers! (Women Can Peek!)

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

Father’s Day is this Sunday.  You may want to avoid it or relish it, depending on your stage of life and experience.

If you are still in your teens you probably aren’t reading this column and should not be a father.  You are not ready or capable.  Keep your zipper up. Those of you who are older and had a child at this age are living examples.  There may be an exception or two.

If you are in your twenties, you may have a child or two.  How is it going for you? School, job, finances, marriage adjustments making it a challenge for you?  It’s hard to handle, isn’t it.  Perhaps you have had your first divorce already.

In your thirties or forties, you probably have children who you may or may not be living with.  In this your first or second marriage?  Bet you have learned a few things along the way.  Did you learn them in time or have you inflicted your inadequacies on to your children?  If you have reached mid life reflection, any regrets?

If you are in your sixties and raising kids, hopefully not babies, your energy level is woefully low.  Wisdom up, stamina down. Hang on! Don’t bow out prematurely.

If you are Jack Nicholson, please stop having babies! You, too, Mel Gibson.

The above developmental stages are stereotypes based on what most men experience during these time frames.  This article is about reflecting on being a Father – as well as being the Son of a Father.

If you currently are a Father, how has it been? A good experience: the kids turning out well?  You are proud of them. A bad experience: they are a mess. In part, because of you? What might you have done differently? Was your Pappy your role model?

If you have kids, do they honor you and the job you did (are doing) with them? Or do they forget you, perhaps because you forgot about them or you were a pathetic Dad?  Hopefully, the former was your experience.

If you are the Son of a Father, what are your thoughts and actions?  Will you say, “Hey, Dad, I love you and appreciate all that you’ve done to help raise me to be the man I am”? Or, will it more like the theme from the “Cats in the Cradle” song – the message being that you weren’t there for me and I’m not there for you.  Have a nice life.

If Father’s Day is not what you would want it to be perhaps you can do some things differently that may make it more special next year.  Could it be that there is a need for some communication and reconciliation in store?  Give it your best shot.  It is so worth it!

Personally, I’ve been fortunate.  Sherry and I have raised two great kids.  They honor us well and we appreciate that. Both are in good marriages and co-parenting well. Our son, Kris, is a wonderful Dad to his daughter, Kyla. Our daughter, Brittany, also is a great parent to her two girls, Hailey and Kaitlyn.

We Fathers have a great responsibility to be present to our kids – with love and guidance appropriate to their age – a role model.  We are blessed with the opportunity!

P.S. Dads, you may want to ask your wife what kind of Father you are. She probably can offer beneficial insight.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

“Ten Signs You’ve Found ‘The One’!”

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

This title is from an article by Danielle Stein. I would like to share it with you and point out where I agree or differ to some degree from her offering. I do a lot of relationship counseling in my practice, including plenty of the pre-marriage type. Due diligence usually is in short supply when two people say they are “in love” and are anxious to get married. I take every opportunity I can to help couples slow down and look at their relationship from a number of perspectives so that if/when they commit the relationship can be sound and lasting.

Here are Ms. Stein’s “10 signs:

  1. “Your partner is your best friend”. I totally agree with this one. Romance, sexual chemistry, life style, beliefs, etc… are important, but in the long run you want a life partner who you can travel through life with.
  2. “Your partner is the one you want in your deepest darkest moments”. It is easy to be with someone when life is wonderful, but who is there for you when the going gets tough, when you need that extra empathy and support to take on the presenting challenges.
  3. “You’re capable of being away from each other, but neither of you like it one bit”. I quibble with this one somewhat. Smacks of co-dependency. Each secure person needs and relishes a certain amount of time alone. Then when you come back together you have something to share. Beware of people who need to be with the other person all the time. Smothering neediness ultimately wears out the relationship.
  4. “Your partner is your # 1 choice for the person you want with you …” . Whether it be a special event or an everyday experience you would prefer to share it with this person. This goes back to number one – “your best friend”.
  5. “You two compromise with each other. You don’t always get your way”. Good relationships have good communication that leads to “win-win” compromises. If you do not have that in your relationship you are doomed to failure.
  6. “You care about his or her needs more than your own”. I don’t believe in this oft used trite saying. I encourage each person in a relationship to know well his or her needs and present them to his or her partner. Optimally each partner’s needs can be met, or at least a solid effort is made to do so.  If there is a conflict then number five kicks in.
  7. “You both know that throughout life you might change and grow, but you’ll always change and grow together. Life is about enjoying the stages with each other”.  This feels a bit idealistic. Certainly change of many types happen, some good, some bad. The goal of a good partnership is to hang in there together through it all because you are committed to be supportive of each other through the various developmental stages of the relationship.
  8. When something significant happens, good or bad, he or she is always the first person you want to call. Agree, this is a natural outcome of number one. This is the person who is your life partner.
  9. “He or she balances you out, and you do the same…”. So often “opposites attract” and in good relationships the best of each heals the wounds of the past and creates a synergy bringing out the best in each other. In poor relationships the weakness of each brings down the relationship.

10.“You know that no matter what, he or she will always stand by you and be at your side”. That is what a committed solid relationship does. To be able to trust the other to “be there” is a wonderful security.

Certainly there are MANY other factors of importance besides these ten in order to have some confidence that your current partner is “the one”, but these ten move you in the right direction.  These ten can in many ways be summed up by being sure that “the one” is your best friend.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates