Transgenders: Touchy Topic. What Do You Know?

February 21st, 2018

Do you know what the term transgender means? According the Merriam-Webster dictionary  transgender “denotes or relates to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex”.  According to Wikipedia, “transgender is an umbrella term: in addition to including people whose gender identity is opposite of their assigned sex (trans men and trans women), it may include people who are not exclusively masculine or feminine (people who are genderqueer, e.g. bigender, pangender, genderfluid, or agender).

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else; gender expression refers to the way a person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice, or body characteristics.”

The APA adds, “sex is assigned at birth, it refers to one’s biological status as either male or female, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women. These influence the ways people act, interact, and feel about themselves. While aspects of biological sex are similar across different cultures, aspects of gender may differ. … Often transsexual individuals alter or wish to alter their bodies through hormones, surgery, and other means to make their bodies as congruent as possible with their gender identities.”

The number of transgender people in the United States is estimated to be 1.3 million, or 0.6 of the population according to the Williams Institute (a think tank of scholars at UCLA Law). There are probably more since many transgenders do not seek to be known as such.

Why are some people are transgender. According to the APA there is no definitive answer. “Many experts believe that biological factors such as genetic influences and prenatal hormone levels, early experiences and experiences later in adolescence or adulthood may all contribute to the development of transgender identities.”

Respected Reader, you may wonder why I share this information. There are a few reasons. One, I often get asked what I think about transgenders. Two, there is a lot of misinformation, biases, and distortion about transgenders. Transgenders are often discriminated against or ridiculed. Parents of children who are questioning their sexuality are confused as to what to think and do.

I counsel transgenders, those who think they may be, and parents who seek guidance as to how to love and support their children who are transgenders or are currently questioning their sexuality. It is a touchy and challenging topic currently in our society.

This is a relatively new phenomenon in our culture and it often triggers polemical debate, particularly within political, legal and religious forums. Hopefully this article will foster some understanding, dialogue, and acceptance of transgenders and restrain people who tend to judge or criticize because of their lack of knowledge. As the cliché’ says, “it is what it is” – and it is real.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

Dr. Stathas can be reached at 706-473-1780. Email: jstathas13@gmail.com. Web site: drstathas.googlepages.com. Blog: drstathas.com

 

Your Brain And “Love”: Choosing The Right Type To Marry, And Stay Together — Happily!

February 5th, 2018

Your Brain And “Love”: Choosing The Right Type To Marry And Stay Together – Happily!

John J. Stathas, Ph.D., LMFT

Most people do not understand what the nature of “love” is. They just know how they feel when they are “in love”. I would like to have you know more about the complexity of “love” from brain types and the chemicals associated with “falling in love” and staying “in love” over time. It is fascinating information and very relevant in a practical sense when choosing a mate and attempting to stay happily married to that person over time. I am indebted to Dr. Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and professor at Rutgers University. She has presented this information in the Family Therapy Journal, Science of Love edition. Her article is entitled “The Brain, How We Fall in Love, and How We Stay Together”. She is a pioneer in doing brain imaging, and its chemical interactions, on this topic.  I will present some of her salient points and add a few of my own. Stay with me on this. I think you will find it fascinating and even relevant!

Dr. Fisher states that romantic love is one of three different brain systems that have evolved over time for mating and reproduction. One is the SEX DRIVE, the craving for sexual gratification, linked primarily with testosterone in both men and women. The second is ROMANTIC LOVE – elation, giddiness, euphoria, possessiveness, obsessive thinking, and high motivation. The third brain system is ATTACHMENT: that sense of calm and security that you can feel with a long term partner.

Dr. Fisher opines that there are two parts to your personality: your CHARACTER – everything you’ve been brought up to believe, do, say, and think – and your TEMPERAMENT – all those traits that come from your biology.

Further, she states that there are four brain systems that are linked with styles of thinking and behaving: dopamine, serotonin, estrogen, and testosterone. They are all linked together in one way or another in a constellation of personality traits. Thus, the more practical implications of this research as Dr. Fisher identifies four different temperament personality types and how they can mesh with each other in regard to love and long term satisfaction. See if you can identify with any one of these types – and the implications for your relationship with a potential or present mate.

THE EXPLORER: Linked with the dopamine system in the brain tend to be novelty seeking, curious, risk taking, creative, spontaneous, energetic, generous, mentally flexible, independent, autonomous, and tend to look outward, not inward.

THE BUILDER: Linked with the serotonin system. These people tend to be cautious, but not fearful, social, popular, want to belong. They tend to be traditional, conventional, orderly, meticulous, quite literal, more religious, and make good managers.

THE DIRECTOR: Linked with the testosterone system. They tend to be analytic, logical, direct, decisive, tough-minded, good at rule-based systems like math, engineering, mechanics, computers, etc… They are not very social.

THE NEGOTIATOR: Linked with estrogen and oxytocin systems. They see the big picture. Estrogen builds many more connections between the two hemispheres of the brain and between the front and back of the brain. They are imaginative, intuitive, have very good verbal skills, and excellent people skills. They tend to be idealistic and altruistic. They are very nurturing, trusting, and have diplomatic intelligence.

Dr. Fisher stresses we are all a combination of these four types but that a person tends to have one of the four more dominant in his or her personality. Have you found your most dominant type, Respected Reader?

So what types marry and combine the best? Dr. Fisher studied 40,000 people and came up with that Explorers tend to be drawn to other Explorers, Builders with other Builders, and that Directors and Negotiators are drawn to each other. Each of these connected types have their merits and there challenges.

In summary, I think Dr. Fisher’s insights into brain chemistry. and consequent personality types. are valuable contribution for those who want a “love” that satisfies short and long term. In my practice doing relationship counseling I use additional constructs such as emotionally expressive or retentive, controller or pleaser, as well as other factors involved in a couple’s life style. Finding the right person to “fall in love” with and maintain a loving relationship over time is complex. Unfortunately most people take shallow, immediately gratifying, PEA chemically based attraction to quickly rush into a committed relationship – which, unfortunately become de-committed in time for such reasons.

Hope you found some or all of this brainy love relationship stuff interesting and, perhaps, pragmatic for your life or someone you care for who may benefit from this information. Thanks for staying through with this!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

 

FEEDBACK Can Help You, Or Someone You Care About, Become A Better Person. Or, Change An Obnoxious Behavior!

January 29th, 2018

Have you ever wanted to tell someone that you wanted them to change a behavior? Of course you have. How did you go about it? Was it successful? Did the person welcome your opinion, say “thank you” and immediately change the undesirable behavior? Probably not! Did that person get defensive? Why? Perhaps you did not deliver the message as sensitively and productively as it could have been. Perhaps you are master as doing this. I doubt it. Let’s see. I am going to offer some tips as to how to offer such constructive criticism, FEEDBACK, to another.

1. IT IS DESCRIPTIVE RATHER THAN EVALUATIVE: Negative comments about another if they come across in a critical judgmental manner make the receiver feel defensive. Thus, s/he will not be open to hearing and possibly changing the behavior communicated in the feedback. When the feedback is descriptive you are saying how you react to the behavior. Thus, the receiver can use it as s/he sees fit. Example: “When you smoke in the car I feel queasy.” As opposed to, “why the hell are you smoking in the car?”

2. IT IS SPECIFIC RATHER THAN GENERAL:  A general statement usually doesn’t get it done. Too easy to “bob and weave” around such a comment, or just get very defensive. Example: “When I was expressing my opinion, you cut me off and loudly expressed yours.” As opposed to, “you always dominate.”

3. IT TAKES INTO ACCOUNT THE NEEDS OF BOTH THE RECEIVER AND GIVER OF FEEDBACK: Communication involves two people. If the message giver is the only beneficiary of the feedback it will not go well. The message hopefully is designed to benefit each person.

4. IT IS DIRECTED TOWARD BEHAVIOR WHICH THE RECEIVER CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT: Frustration is only increased when a person is reminded of some short-coming over which s/he has no control.

5. IT IS SOLICITED RATHER THAN IMPOSED: Preferably the intended receiver asks for feedback. Often, however, s/he does not do that. In such a case it is certainly appropriate for the giver to respectfully ask if s/he can offer some feedback. There are cases, however, when the receiver is disinclined to receive feedback, and the issue is important to the giver, that the giver may make his or her feedback – respectfully. And, perhaps, then run!

6. IT IS WELL-TIMED: This is a frequent mistake that givers of feedback make. Timing is crucial oftentimes. The mood of the receiver at a given time; what the receiver is doing at the time that the giver wants to give feedback; other people around, etc… are factors relative to feedback being successful.

7. IT IS CHECKED TO INSURE CLEAR COMMUNICATION: A way to do that is for the giver to ask the receiver to rephrase what he or she just heard. Such a rephrasing might help the giver to further clarify the intended message.

Feedback is a way of giving help to another to change an undesirable behavior. It is not meant to be given in a mean spirited or one up attempt. It is sincere, genuine, and hopefully kind.

Respected Reader, can you think of a person or two, or three, or … that you would like to give some feedback to? On the flip side, do you think you are open to constructive feedback from others? Feedback can be a valuable win-win communication with improvement in behavior, and perhaps the relationship, if done with tact using the above noted recommendations. Hope they help!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

“Ten Fundamental Truths We Forget Too Easily” Worth A Peek At!

January 21st, 2018

Respected Reader, how is your memory? I know that mine has plenty of lapses. Certain things I know and should be putting into practice occasionally, okay, often, fall by the wayside. Reminders can help us re-focus, become aware again, on some fundamental things that can make our life work just a bit better, or a whole lot better! Dr. Travis Bradberry has a talent for helping the reader to embrace things that enhance success, both in personal growth, relationships, and in the workplace. I respect his writings and often bring them to this space, with my added contribution. I like these reminders and invite you to reflect on them

1. BEING BUSY DOES NOT EQUAL BEING PRODUCTIVE: “Success doesn’t come from movement and activity. It comes from focus – from ensuring that your time is used efficiently and productively.” You’ve heard the expression “running around like chickens with their heads cut off”, have you not? (google the expression). My calendar is a constant reflection and reminder of how I spend my time. It is a reflection of my priorities. May you evaluate your priorities and spend quality focused time in getting what is important done well.

2. GREAT SUCCESS IS OFTEN PRECEDED BY FAILURE: “The biggest breakthroughs typically come when you’re feeling the most frustrated and most stuck.” Personally, I know this to be true, as I changed my career path two times when in this state of being. I wasn’t failing per se, but in need of a change. In both cases I moved forward in a creative and enlivened manner. Thank you frustration! Life is a series of adjustments moving through the ups and downs. When in the down position it is necessary to have the resilience to progress to your next best situation.

3. FEAR IS THE SOURCE OF REGRET: “When it’s all said and done, you will lament the chances you didn’t take far more than you will your failures. Don’t be afraid to take risks. … The worst thing that can happen to you is allowing yourself to die inside while you’re still alive.” The expression “frozen in fear” is real. Fear stops you in your tracks. One of my favorite expressions is “just do the next right thing”. Overcome fear and move forward. Any particular fear stopping you at present?

4. YOUR SELF WORTH MUST COME FROM WITHIN: Too many people measure their self worth based on the opinions of others or what they have accomplished. Such superficial and transient reinforcement only makes you more needy and dependent. When your self worth comes from within you are your own rock and can withstand any adversarial element in your way.

5. YOU’RE ONLY AS GOOD AS THOSE YOU ASSOCIATE WITH: “You should strive to surround yourself with people who inspire you, people who make you better.” Remember your parents telling you in your teens not to hang around this or that person? They didn’t want you to be influenced by such an individual. “Birds of a feather flock together” makes sense. Look who you are hanging around with. Look to see who you might want to raise the bar towards. Flying high or waddling low?

6. LIFE IS SHORT: Carpe diem, seize the day – while you can. Appreciate the opportunity that each day offers for going forward in ways that are important priorities for you. This one has never meant more than it does these days! J

7. YOU DON’T HAVE TO WAIT FOR AN APOLOGY TO FORGIVE: “Life goes smoother once you let go of grudges and forgive even those who never said they were sorry. … Hate and anger are parasites that destroy the joy in life.” Carrying negative baggage, emotions and thoughts, just weigh you down. They are a mental burden robbing your brain of the “good stuff”. Park it and leave it!  Not easy, but most worthwhile.

8. YOU’RE LIVING THE LIFE YOU’VE CREATED: “You are not a victim of circumstance. No one can force you to make decisions and take actions that run contrary to your values and aspirations. The circumstances you’re living in today are your own – you created them. Likewise, your future is entirely up to you.”Too often in my office I hear people play the victim card. Life has not been “fair” to them. And, it may not have. My practice is build a lot about the wiring of the brain, both genetically and experientially. But neoplasticity is a reality. The brain and behavior  can be modified to produce wonderful outcomes for those who choose to make the effort. My practice continues to verify that every day!

9. LIVE IN THE MOMENT: Personally I don’t see much of a difference between this one and number 6. Get with it. Don’t hesitate in getting on with life and the choices immediately before you. Another cliché: “He who hesitates is lost.” Be “found”!

10. CHANGE IS INEVITABLE – EMBRACE IT: “Only when you embrace change can you find good in it. You need to have an open mind and open arms if you’re going to recognize, and capitalize on, the opportunities that change creates.” Again, the oft quoted Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Change, but research well the contemplated choice.

Respected Reader, any of these reminders saying anything to you? Or, are you continually on top of these “fundamental truths”?  Any other “fundamental truths” of your that you may want to call back to mind and action?

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Dr. Stathas can be reached at 706-473-1780. Email: jstathas13@gmail.com. Web site: drstathas.googlepages.com. Blog: drstathas.com

“6 Things You Should ALWAYS Be Selfish About In Relationships”

January 14th, 2018

Getting in, staying, and developing a healthy significant relationship that has depth is not an easy task. Insight of the week! Often individuals error on one extreme or the other in such a relationship. One person may become passive dependent in the relationship, whereas another individual may become egotistical and controlling. Being able to be your full self in a healthy interdependent relationship is a most worthwhile goal. Here are some tips to assist in that endeavor offered by Laura Brown and embellished by me. Ms. Brown has stated that she was such a giver that she lost her true self. She so wanted the other person to not leave that she gave up the following factors to ensure that the other person would not leave. Mistake, now corrected! Now, never give up these six things in a relationship.

1. YOUR INDEPENDENCE: The best relationships exist when both people are independent, not needy or inclined to be dependent. Based on a mutual understanding toward developing a healthy relationship, two independent people thus form a synergistic interdependent relationship with an equal give and take between them. Many years ago I made up a little saying in this regard:  “You come into this world alone. You leave alone. Along the way you hold hands with different people, in various degrees of intimacy, for various periods of time. But you are alone.”   Embrace your aloneness and independence – your essence!

2. YOUR IDENTITY: The goal of each person is to become the best person s/he can be. Healthy relationships foster this. Each person brings experiences, perspective, opinions, etc… to the other. An independent person decides which ones to adopt and make a part of his/her identity. You need to be in charge of the identity you create and live.

3. YOUR HAPPINESS: Various people and experiences bring us happiness. One person’s happiness may not be another’s. Life is expansive enough for each to find separate happinesses, as well as that shared together. Trust and the ability to talk about one’s individual happinesses are important here.

4. YOUR DREAMS AND AMBITIONS: This one seems somewhat redundant to me. If you have your independence, actively developing your identity, and creating happiness, then certainly your dreams and ambitions are part and parcel of them.

5. YOUR FAITH: This is a tricky one, less so in these times than past. Certain religions and believers can make this difficult. However, your faith is your faith, not someone else’s. What you believe and practice is your right. If your significant other has a problem with that then that person does not deserve such a designation and role. You must be free to be who you are, including whatever faith/beliefs  you may currently be espousing.

6. YOUR RIGHT TO BE HEARD: I like the way Ms. Hilton comments here: “Your voice is your power. It’s how you share your ideas with the world, advocate for something you believe in, and stand up for yourself when necessary. Relationships should be breeding grounds for greater security and confidence in our voice.” Healthy relationships help bring out the best in you, build confidence, and enable your voice to be heard.

Relationships certainly are complex. Certainly the ones that have a deeper emotional tie have the most impact in affecting who you are and what you do. Choose wisely, do due diligence, stay aware of the interpersonal dynamic going on, and choose to be all of your best self. May these six reminders add to your ability to do that!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

Dr. Stathas can be reached at 706-473-1780. Email: jstathas13@gmail.com. Web site: drstathas.googlepages.com. Blog: drstathas.com