Archive for November, 2010

Holidays Evoke Memories and Emotions!

Friday, November 26th, 2010

     Holiday memories are some of the most basic and vivid images in our brain.   Holidays remind us of our familyexperiences when we were a child. Family experiences, and their consequent memories, are forever impactful on our emotional life.  They dramatically affect how you experience the holidays year after year.  Also, holiday emotions are the “tip of the  iceberg” for related emotions affecting your life even when you do not know it.  Emotions are the primary energy of interpersonal relationships. It is important to be aware and in touch with those primal feelings.

     What is your gut feeling about the holidays?  Are they feelings of joy and excitement, or are they feelings of melancholy and depression.   If you are a person who looks forward to and welcomes the holidays, you probably had a happy childhood within your family.  There probably was a lot of love, caring, fun, and thoughtfulgifts present in your household.  You probably are continuing valued family traditions. 

     You may, however, be one of those persons who did not have a positive experience growing up, but have decided to make deliberate conscious choices to do things very differently in your family.  You want to erase those painful memories with new and positive experiences and have them  become encoded in your brain.

     If you are a person who dislikes the holidays, feels blue, and wants them to quickly be over, then search for your negative childhood experiences.  Now may be the time to feel, grieve, and heal such pain.  The holidays can be the occasion to break through your unconscious defense mechanisms and change the way you experience the holidays

     The holidays are an opportunity.  They can be the occasion for enhanced love and sharing within yourself and with loved ones.  They can be the stimulus for getting in touch with buried emotional pain that needs to emerge into wholeness and happiness.  Do a gut check.  What are your earliest holiday memories?  Self awareness and sharing these feelings can add a whole new dimension to this year’s holiday for you and those with whom you most intimately share your life.

     Create some new and special memories this year.          HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

A Thanksgiving Perspective and Opportunity

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

      We are a country of rituals and holidays.  It is inherent in human beings to reflect on certain basic realities and celebrate their existence.  As each duly designated holiday passes, I sometimes wonder whether we truly benefit from the holiday beyond the fact that we have a day off from our usual routine.  Has the day added anything to our consciousness?  Are we any better for having participated in the day?

      Thanksgiving. Giving thanks.   As you think of it, do you consider it as a day of obligation or opportunity? Obligation might include having to go to someone’s house, stressfully be with family, endure insipid relatives, and overdo the consumption of plentiful food and drink. Opportunity offers something different.  It invites us to ponder our lives from a positive grateful perspective.

      Who are the people, what are the circumstances, of our life for which we might give thanks?

      May I invite you to use this opportunity to reflect on possible sources of gratitude.  See if you can come up with seven answers to the following questions:

  1.  Who have been the people of your past for whom you are grateful?

  2.  Who are the people currently in your life for whom it is appropriate to give thanks?

  3.  What are the events and circumstances in your life today that elicit thanksgiving?

After you have finished, share your list and the reasons for choosing them with a significant person in your life.  A pleasant conversation will result. Guaranteed.

      If you take some time and seriously reflect on these questions you may well be surprised at what you find.  Some of the negative or hurtful people and events of your life may actually have had, or do have, a positive influence on your personal and professional life.  That difficult teacher, challenging supervisor, idiotic boyfriend, outrageous first wife, being fired, car accident, etc… may in the long run have benefited you greatly.  Oftentimes we learn some basic lessons of life from some tough circumstances and seemingly negative people or experiences.

   If your focus this Thanksgiving is on gratitude instead of grudge, seeing what is right in your life instead of wrong, it can be an opportunity to truly celebrate the day.  Perhaps the day could include actually expressing your thankfulness to these special people.  After all, they have been the instruments in making you the incredible person     that you are!                                                                                      

                                                                                                                HAPPY  THANKSGIVING!

Do You Know Who You Are – Your Identity? Really?

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

     Your personal identity is a fascinating reality  -  evolving and changing over time.  At each stage of existence you can be described from a variety of perspectives.  The object of this blog is to invite you to explore your core identity. This personal perspective will result from answering the following questions.  From this information you will know yourself better and, thus, can take a more proactive role in determining who you want to become. Yes, personal creation is possible!

 WHO HAVE BEEN “FAMILY” IN YOUR LIFE?  An important starting point is to construct a genogram, a family tree.  These family  members have been very influential in determining much of your physical, emotional, intellectual, career, interests, and spiritual components.  Genetically and environmentally they have left an imprint on you. Also, they have been the models for you to learn from. Who were your parents, and their parents?  What did they look like? What were they like mentally? What did they believe?  How did they live? How did they act towards each other, and towards you? What did you learn from them? What has been the impact of siblings, or lack of them? These factors influenced much of your past and present identity.

 WHO  ARE  FAMILY  NOW? Are you married?  Divorced?  Kids?  Extended family?   These people, too, have shaped, and continue to shape, your personhood.

 WHO ARE THE SIGNIFICANT PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE?  Who are the people in your life presently that impact you?   In the past?  Do you make wise choices with regard to the people you let into your life?

WHERE HAVE YOU LIVED?  Where you have lived has been instrumental in who you are.  Have you moved very often? At what age?  Who were your teachers, friends, associates over the years?  List the significant ones and rate their influence on you, positively and negatively.  Where do you live now?  Why?

QUALITY  OF  LIFE? How have you lived in the past?  What has been your life style, jobs, interests, sources of fun?  Has this been a healthy life style? How have these factors changed over the years?  Describe your present way of being.  What is important as you live day to day?

DETOURS: In what manner have you gotten off course? Perhaps made some poor decisions.  Still off track? What do you need to find your path?

BELIEF  SYSTEM? DO YOU HAVE ONE? What has been your belief system and reason for living as you have?  Your current raison d’etre?  Have you devoted much energy to conscious reflective living or are you on auto pilot, just going through the motions?  Are you religious?  How about spiritual?

 CAREER  CHOICES? What jobs and careers have you had?  How have they affected your life and those closest to you?  Are you pleased with your present career?  What’s next? Does your career reflect your passion and give you fulfillment?

ACCOMPLISHMENTS? What have you accomplished in your life?  Are you proud of them?  What are your future goals?  Any major changes ahead?

UNFINISHED  BUSINESS? If you died today, is there unfinished business?  What is your legacy?  What wouldpeople say about you?   What would you hope that they would say?  If you could do it all over, what would you do differently?

Want a Marriage Like Your Parents – or Different? Seven Tasks are the Key

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

    People get married.  Fifty percent get divorced.  Most people marry again.  Sixty-six percent of these people get divorced.  Making a marriage work is not easy.  How does a couple learn to build a successful marriage?     

 In a recent survey only ten percent of the respondents said that they wanted a marriage like their parents.  Yet, most people do have a marriage like their parents.  A few have one VERY different.  Our parents have been our role models – for better or worse.  Modeling is the most powerful form of teaching and learning.  The marriage of your parents when you were young is the one encoded in your brain and subconsciously affects whom you marry and how you act in a marriage.

     Dr. Judith Wallerstein has identified certain “tasks” to be accomplished for a successful marriage.  Based on my clinical experience in working with couples for twenty-nine years, I concur completely.  The tasks:

1. Separate emotionally from the family of your childhood and invest fully in your marriage.   This involves setting priorities and re-defining the connection with both parents.  An example of this is the way holidays are spent.

 2. Build togetherness that includes individual growth and interdependence, not co-dependence.   With the support of one other, each person fulfills his/her potential and a powerful synergistic union results.

3. Establish a rich and pleasurable sexual relationship.  Spent quality time with each other in relaxed sensual  encounters.  Remember romance and the efforts you made early in the relationship.

4. The marriage comes first, children second.  Too often people reverse this order and the marriage goes down the drain.  Time and effort needs to be expended on the marriage to give it sustained life.  Children then will thrive based on the security offered by a perceived strong marriage.

 5. Make your home a safe place to discuss a wide range of feelings.  Let it be a sanctuary for emotional vulnerability.  If a couple cannot be vulnerable to each other there is no intimacy.  Intimacy is what sustains a relationship for the long haul.  It is what “soul mates” is all about.

6. Enable humor and fun to reside in your home.  Try to be angry and laugh at the same time. You cannot do it.  Couples enjoying life together do not spend much time criticizing the other.

7. Nurture each other.  Everyone has hurts and bruises inflicted by life experiences.  Caring, empathy and gentle touch help soothe and heal the wounded heart.

     These seven “tasks” are a few of the basics for a healthy marriage.  Implement them and you will have a solid marriage, one that brings out the best in each of you.

Forgiveness: An Act of Love

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

     People hurt and get hurt.  That is a basic part of human existence. Hurts, whether they be physical or emotional, can be hard to heal.  Long after the painful event has occurred the psychological remnant remains.  If your reaction is to get, and stay, mad at someone else for what they did to you, you are stuck in GRUDGE.  If you continue to blame yourself for hurting someone else, you are stuck with GUILT.  The two G’s are toxic emotional and spiritual cancers of the soul that drain and deplete your capacity to love and move forward in a healthy manner.

     One of the most difficult task that I have in therapy is helping people get over their grudges and guilts.  Many people hold on for dear life!  There apparently is benefit that people feel by continuing to blame others or themselves for transgressions of the past. Those negative angry people are not people you want to be vulnerable to or hang around with.  They are an emotional pain and drain..

      The answer is to get rid of guilt and grudge and become a positive spirited person.  FORGIVENESS.  Forgiveness wipes the slate clean, allowing you to live inthe present moment, able to move forward.  Forgiving is not the same as forgetting.  You do not forget, but you can forgive. Forgiveness is a spiritual act primarily.  It is a recognition that a life in the spirit is impossible while one holds on to grudge or guilt.  They are incompatible, positive energy versus negative energy, open versus closed.  Forgiveness allows you the opportunity to re-connect with yourself and with the person who has hurt you.  In the process you become whole, a person of integrity, thus capable of being united with another.

     You are not capable of loving if you do not forgive.  Some people deceive and delude themselves into thinking that they are capable of loving while holding malice in their hearts.  Those of the Christian persuasion are familiar with the admonition of Jesus to always forgive, over and over.  (“Seventy times seven” means infinity for those who do not understand that quote.)  Those in the Recovery movement know well that making “amends” is a critical component for moving forward to a life of integrity without addiction.

     Forgiveness does not always necessitate re-connection to the other person. There are some people that will continually hurt you.  This is where the concept of “boundary” is relevant.  You can forgive someone and still maintain a barrier to ever being hurt again. Some people cannot be trusted and, therefore, need to be kept at a distance.

     If you choose to cross the bridge from grudge and guilt to forgiveness, there are a number of ways to convey it. For grudge you can tell the perpetrator face to face or send the person a letter.  If you do not want to deal with the person per se, you can just let it go in your heart.  For guilt, it is important to actively forgive yourself and let it go, not just push it down into your subconscious. If you do that guilt will eat away at your core self.


THE STRONG.” (Ghandi)                                                                                              “TO ERROR IS HUMAN, TO FORGIVE IS DIVINE” (Alexander Pope)