Still Disagreeing About What Happened “Yesterday”? Stop Now!

December 6th, 2017

One of the biggest problems in communication is when people continue to argue over things that happened in the past, recently or years ago. No where is it more bruising and destructive than in committed romantic relationships.

In practically every couple therapy session that I have one person will say that s/he is still upset about something the other person said or did. The other person will say that s/he is wrong. This or that was not said or done. “No way!” To which the other person says, “Yes, it was!”  Ad infinitum. Escalation continues. Tempers flare. Both are invested in their belief of the situation. Does anyone win? No. Does compromise happen? No.

People get invested in their perception. Get that? “Perception”. One definition I read stated that perception is “A way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.” Notice the definition said “a” way, not “the” way.  (I will never forget my first Scripture class in the seminary when the professor held up a book and said that the name of it was “A History of Israel”. Then he said, “Gentleman, note the title is “A history” … not “The history”. Point made.)

Perception is a SUBJECTIVE sensory experience. It is not objective. So-o-o, when someone states that this or that occurred, s/he is stating his or her subjective remembering of the situation. When people start arguing in my office about what had happened or said I ask them to stop talking. Then I ask if either of them brought with them the video or audio tape of this situation. Of course, they did not.

Then I say there will be no more mention of the who did or did not do what the other person says happened. Further discussion will focus on the needs and wants of each going forward and how to best communicate and effectuate such positive outcomes. The past cannot be changed and to continue to argue about it is destructive. Let it go, move on!

This moving on is hard for most individuals in this power exchange. S/he wants to be right, to be vindicated. Well, if one person needs to be “right”, then the other person needs to be “wrong”. And who wants that – nobody!

When such disagreements about the past need closure I ask each individual to say something like this, “I thought that’s what was said, maybe I am wrong” and the other person says the same. “Wiggle room” results with nobody having to “win” and a respectful communication allowing each to move on while letting go of needing to be “right”.

 

Respected Reader, may you do your best to not get caught up in the negative past. “You cannot go forward while looking back over your shoulder.” Maximize living in the present with an eye open to create a wonderful future. Respectful communication in this vein leads to more smiles and connectedness with the other person. Well worth this extra effort!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

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Stressed: Tips For The “Stress Proof Brain”!

November 24th, 2017

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), Americans had the most statistically significant increase in stress levels in the last ten years. Such stress is debilitating to both brain and body. Stress destroys! Psychologist Melanie Greenberg has authored a new book, “The Stress Proof Brain”, to help interested folks combat stress. She presents five tips. Coincidentally, these are the five tips I teach my clients/patients. Here they are, along with my commentary.

  1. LIVE IN THE MOMENT: Too often people stress/worry about something from the past or what might occur in the future. Focus on the here and now. Calm down by listening to your breathing and/or find a type of meditation that work for you. Vigorous exercise assists. These efforts calm the brain and fight off anxiety.
  2. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL: Actively compartmentalizing what you can control and re-directing your mind to that which you can control lowers your irrational stress.
  3. EXAMINE YOUR THOUGHTS: If a pervasive thought is negative and stressful, “change the channel” – change to a different thought that is positive. While this is not always easy, especially when you are obsessing, it is worth the effort to try and do this. The more you do it the easier it becomes. You can control what thoughts, and consequent feelings, are present in your brain more that you might think
  4. PRACTICE SELF COMPASSION: Too often you can get down on yourself, blaming or criticizing. Be gentle with yourself. Learn to love yourself and display it in various ways.
  5. FIND LIKE MINDED PEOPLE: Sharing your thoughts, feelings, and time with positive caring people helps to reduce stress and help you find solutions when needed. Being accepted and nurtured is stress reducing.

Respected Reader, I hope you will take a minute to examine what your stress level is. Regardless of the intensity these five tips can lower it and help you function at a better level. If these practical tips don’t help you may have a deeper more resistant anxiety and might want to consider psychotherapy as a remedy.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

“9 Signs You Are Dealing With An Emotional Manipulator”

November 16th, 2017

Emotional manipulation is an art form, a true skill set. Unfortunately it is a devious and dangerous method used by self centered people who want to get what they want by manipulating you. They win, you lose.  A skilled manipulator can destroy your self esteem and may even cause you to question your reality. Thus, the reason for this article – to help you become aware of signs that someone may be trying to do this to you in some form or fashion.

Dr. Travis Bradberry has written an informative article on this subject. I am sharing his “9 signs” and adding my own commentary.   See if you know any people who do these things.

  1. THEY UNDERMINE YOUR FAITH IN YOUR GRASP OF REALITY: EM’s (emotional manipulators) are skilled liars. They are so good at this that you question what really is going on. They will say this happened when it did not. They will say this did not happen when it did. They are pretty convincing.
  2. THEIR ACTIONS DON’T MATCH THEIR WORDS: They say one thing and do another. Tough to keep up with this deceitful behavior.
  3. THEY ARE EXPERTS AT DOLING OUT GUILT: This is a biggee! They keep you on the defensive by making sure that whatever you believe, say, or do is wrong. Your fault!
  4. THEY CLAIM THE ROLE OF THE VICTIM: This is another clever move. Nothing is ever their fault. It is always someone else’s fault and they are the victim. They do not take accountability for anything. They’ll pin it on you.
  5. THEY ARE TOO MUCH, TOO SOON: They skip steps, share too much too soon, and expect the same from you. They portray vulnerability and sensitivity, but it’s a ruse.
  6. THEY ARE AN EMOTIONAL BLACK HOLE: Whatever EM’s are feeling, they are geniuses at sucking everyone around them into those emotions. Also, they make you feel that you are responsible for these bad feelings and you are responsible to fit them.
  7. THEY EAGERLY AGREE TO HELP – AND MAYBE EVEN VOLUNTEER – THEN ACT LIKE A MARTYR: They express this willingness to help and then morph into sighs, groans, and suggestions that this is such a burden to them. If you question this they will turn it around on you and help you feel guilty for questioning this incongruity.
  8. THEY ALWAYS ONE-UP YOU: No matter what problems or situations you may have, Ems have it worse. They undermine the legitimacy of your complaints by reminding you that their problems are more serious, so shut up. They take it over and focus on themselves.
  9. THEY KNOW ALL YOUR BUTTONS AND DON’T HESITATE TO PUSH THEM: EMs know your weak spots, and they are quick to use that knowledge against you. For example, if you are insecure about your weight, they comment on what you eat or the way your clothes fit. Their goal is to make you feel bad so that they may feel better about themselves and the situation. They always want the upper hand.

The key to dealing with Ems is to be aware of what they are doing. Once you have determined that they are of this type, distance yourself emotionally and behaviorally. If you must continue to interact with them, establish clear boundaries so that their tactics cannot harm you in any way.

Well, Respected Reader, do you know any of these types? Hopefully this writing has alerted you to be more cognizant of EMs in your life. Do not let them infect your being. They are hurtful!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

You Thought You Were “In Love”. Nope, You Were Not!

November 8th, 2017

Have you ever heard this “oldie” song by Lloyd Price entitled “I’m Gonna Get Married”? Some of the lyrics are: “Johnny, you’re too young. But I’m gonna get married. You’re so young. My name she’ll carry. You’re too young. … How come my heart deserts me, burning full of love and desire. How come every time she kisses me it sets my soul on fire. … You’re so young”

On the journey through life the “chemistry of love” overwhelms us and takes us to a land of euphoria. Question for you, Respected Reader: how many times have you been “in love”? Did you marry each time? Probably not, hopefully not! If you did, “whew”! I have had a few “in love” moments in life before I found my one true love. I am so grateful that I did not let those few “in love” moments lead to commitment. They never would have lasted, for they were not marriage love. What is going on in these “in love” moments is a complex short term chemical reaction in the brain.

Let me explain. PEA (phenylethylamine) is the chemical that sets off the “in love” feelings. It releases norepinephrine and dopamine into the brain giving you those dizzying feelings associated with romantic love. Great feelings. However, these activated chemicals don’t last long. Three years max. The relationship needs to evolve through the many factors that make for a long term marriageable love. If that develops the enduring chemicals of oxytocin and serotonin will abide. This is the true feel good enduring “love”. (We are chemicals!)

It is because of this knowledge, gained personally and professionally, I like one of the roles I have in my multi-faceted practice – “Dating Coach”! In this role I help people know who they are, what they bring to a relationship, what they need in a relationship, what to be aware of in a potential marriage partner, the do’s and don’ts of the dating process, what are “red flags” in the relationship, etc… . Many elements go into finding the best fit for a long term relationship. Too many people take the short cut, side tracked by the PEA impact.

Since I’m using music to help convey the message, allow me to offer some other lyrics to help make my point that love is a process deepened over many years. (Sorry, Bachelor and Bachelorette for your lame attempts to couple up individuals to be “in love”). The song “Love Takes Time by Orleans conveys the message:

“I saw the twinkle in her eye, it lit a fire inside (PEA, my insert). But it burned so wild and strong, I knew it wouldn’t last  long (wise person, my insert). Cause love takes time, and it’s hard to find. You gotta take some time to let love grow. I saw a shooting star go by. It blazed a path across the sky. But the beauty did not last, no some things just happen too fast.  But love takes time, and it’s hard to find. You gotta take some time to let love grow.”

 

Respected Reader, how does the above message resonate with you – your past and present? Has a deep abiding love been found and nurtured?  Are you still “in the hunt”? An enduring committed love must pass through various roads, the first one usually is the PEA road. Don’t let it detour you on the way to finding “The One”. Hope this helps!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

Devoted Spouse: A Local Inspiration!

November 1st, 2017

“Devoted”, how is it defined? A dictionary stated “very loving, loyal, faithful, true, staunch, steadfast, constant, committed, dedicated, devout.”  I do not witness devoted spouses very often, but when I do I marvel.

I received a phone call recently from a woman that I met many years ago. She called to tell me that her husband had been stricken with ALS (“Lou Gehrig disease”), a debilitating and ultimately deadly disease. The call brought forth a memory – and a tear.

I met this couple, Joe and Sally, many years ago when I was a young priest in Decatur, Georgia. They came to the church I was stationed at, St. Thomas More. They liked my sermons and thought they might like me to marry them in the church. I met with them, did the pre-marriage ritual and them had the privilege of united them in marriage for the Church and State.

They were a unique couple, especially back in the late 60’s. Joe is Caucasian, Sally is African-American. Joe served in the Air Force, retired and began a life as an Educator, retiring as a Principal of an Atlanta High School. Sally was a teacher, with a bright mind and compassionate heart. Their marriage was the first interracial marriage in Georgia.

Joe and Sally, now retired, live in the Lake Oconee area. As a result of the onset of ALS Joe currently has lost much muscle in his arms and, thus, is not able to feed or bathe himself. Sally, devoted wife, makes sure he eats and is clean! She loves him dearly and does all she can do to help him through this challenging time.

I write this both as a testimony to Joe and Sally, for their service to humanity and their steadfast love for each other over the years. Also, I share this as a reminder that true committed love does whatever it takes to share the joys and burdens that life presents to a couple.

I saw another devoted mate at a closer level. My Father developed Alzheimer’s disease at the age of fifty five. He died at age 68. In those intervening years my Mother heroically took care of him night and day until such time that he needed assisted living. She loved her “Jake” and took care of him with all she could muster – a “devoted” wife!

I am fortunate to be in a marriage where both Sherry and I know that no matter what travails lie in store, we are totally there for the other. Our mutual devotion runs deep. A comforting feeling!

Respected Reader, I hope that you have, or will create, a marriage that has a devoted love at its core. Thank you, Sally (and Mom) for the reminder!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates