Archive for October, 2012

Cancer Diagnosis: “I’m Not Ready To Go Yet!”

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Have  you ever been diagnosed with a life altering disease?  Have you ever thought your death was going to be sooner than what you had expected?  Such an occurrence can serve as quite a gut check!

I have had the occasion to face what I felt might be my premature death.  A number of years ago I went to see a dermatologist for a body scan.  The doctor said she did not like the look of one of my moles, so she cut out some of it and sent it to the Lab for analysis.  I felt sure that she was just being “cautious” and I did not think much about it.  Later that week I checked my messages and heard her say, “call me a soon as possible.”  My heart began to race as I called her back.  The message was “melanoma.” I was stunned and scared.

My life shifted gears; it went into overdrive.  The need for knowledge was immediate.  I researched the internet and printed reams of information.  I did not like what I found.  Melanoma is serious business.

Finances were reviewed.  My portfolio was not where I had wished it to be at this stage of my life, especially as the market was in a period of correction.  Some regrets that I had invested in ABC  instead of XYZ.  Still there was the satisfaction that my family would be financially viable.

Emotionally, this was an intense period.  I’m too young (a relative term), not ready to check out!  How would my wife handle this?  What would be the affect on my kids of losing their father at this stage of their young lives?  My anxiety was lowered somewhat by the incredible loving support offered by my family.  Also, the caring expressed by the few friends that were aware of my situation was touching and valued.

Spiritually, this experience was not a challenge. Many people find that it is. I did not get angry at God, blame God, ask to be bailed out by God.  The God of love does not cause disease or tragedy.  Rather, the spirit of  love drives out fear, gives hope and courage to “suit up and show up.”  I felt that power.

I asked myself what do I need to change in my life?  The answer was that very little needed change.  I like the way I was living – trying to be all that I can be – taking care of myself, with the priorities of family, a career of helping people, taking time for fun.

The melanoma was excised.  The margins were clear.  The literature said I had about an eighty-five percent chance of living another five years (about the same percentage of living while driving on 285!) Relief, appreciation, renewed sensitivity to people, and the preciousness of life have emerged.  For those who may have a life threatening disease or have experienced the fear of dying, I am now more able to empathize and connect with you.  Call me if you like, I will “be there!)

 

What Kind of Parent Are/Were You? A Questionnaire for You and Your Kids

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Periodically students are given their report cards by the school system.  They are evaluated as to their achievement in various areas of the curriculum.  Some excel.   Others have not been as fortunate and have fallen short of the desired standard.  Reassessment is needed to steer a more successful course.

Just as students are evaluated on their performance, so, too, should parents.  Is the parent relationship with each other and with the kids as good as possible?  Parents are the leaders, the mentors, in the family.  Parents set the tone, establish the expectations, and evaluate accordingly.  It is appropriate for parents to be evaluated as well.  Perhaps, based on the information gathered, some reassessment and modification would be necessary.

The following questionnaires can be helpful in raising self awareness and engendering better communication within the family.  One questionnaire is for kids to evaluate parents and the other is for parents to rate themselves.  I have used these instruments in my practice and in workshop situations.  They have been effective in improving dialogue between parents, as well as parents with their kids.  Try to be as honest and objective as possible.  Help your child answer the questionnaire if needed.  Some of these questions may make you feel uncomfortable, but I assure you that they are relevant.

REPORT CARD FOR KIDS:  Circle the appropriate letter for Mom.  Put a square around the grade for Dad.

1.  Tells me regularly the he/she loves me.  A  B  C  D  F

2.  Respects me as a person.  A  B  C  D  F

3.  Understands my moods.  A  B  C  D  F

4.  Respects my privacy.   A  B  C  D  F

5.  Teaches me what I need to know.  A  B  C  D  F

6.  Listens to my problems. A  B  C  D  F

7.  Shares sexual information freely. A  B  C  D  F

8. Has a sense of humor. A  B  C  D  F

9.  Appreciates how hard I try at school. A  B  C  D  F

10.  Is consistent and fair with expectations and discipline. A  B  C  D  F

11.  Treats each child in the family fairly. A  B  C  D  F

12.  Accepts my friends. A  B  C  D  F

13.  Does not nag. A  B  C  D  F

14.  My parent’s marriage is a… A  B  C  D  F

15.  My dad shows love to my mother. A  B  C  D  F

16.  My mother shows love to my dad. A  B  C  D  F

17.  I am happy in this family. A  B  C  D  F

18.  I contribute my fair share in the family. A  B  C  D  F

19.  I show love to my parents. A  B  C  D  F

20.  I am being honest in this exercise. A  B  C  D  F

Things I wish were different in my family are….

FOR PARENTS:  For each item please grade yourself.  Mothers use a circle.  Dads use a square.

1.  I tell my child regularly that I love him/her. A  B  C  D  F

2.  I show respect for my child. A  B  C  D  F

3.  I am understanding of my child’s moods. A  B  C  D  F

4.  I respect my child’s privacy. A  B  C  D  F

5.  I teach my child what he/she needs to know. A  B  C  D  F

6.  I listen to my child’s problems. A  B  C  D  F

7.  I share sexual information freely with my child, appropriate to age. A  B  C  D  F

8.  I bring humor to the family. A  B  C  D  F

9.  I appreciate how hard my child works in school. A  B  C  D  F

10.  I accept my child’s friends . A  B  C  D  F

11.  I am consistent and fair with my expectations and discipline. A  B  C  D  F

12.  I treat each child in the family fairly. A  B  C  D  F

13.  I do not nag. A  B  C  D  F

14.  My marriage is a(n). A  B  C  D  F

15.  I show my love for my spouse. A  B  C  D  F

16.  My spouse shows his/her love for me. A  B  C  D  F

17.  I am happy in this family. A  B  C  D  F

18.  I contribute my fair share in this family. A  B  C  D  F

19.  My child experiences my love. A  B  C  D  F

20.  I am honest with these answers. A  B  C  D  F

Things I wish were different in our family:

What do the “REPORT CARDS” indicate?  Did you get further insight into the thoughts and feelings of various family members?  What are you going to do with that information?

Quality relationships between parents and kids are built on love, trust, respect, communication, consistency, and a willingness to adapt to the changing developmental needs of the family.  Your willingness to participate in an evaluative process indicates a desire to be the best parent you can be.  You can bet that this will have a positive pay-off for your children, personally and academically.  Your kids deserve your best efforts.

“Shame On You”! The Price Paid by Being Shamed is Awful

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Have you ever had these words put on you by anyone?  This denunciation used by significant others such as parents, lovers, friends, supervisors, etc… can cause considerable emotional pain.  If you have had this happen to you then you are aware of how much it can hurt. Feelings of shame emanating from words can be vicious and cruel, yet there is an even worse experience of shame.  This is the shame induced by another’s behavior.  The deepest scar of shame enduring the longest is the abuse perpetuated by a family member.

A child growing up in the family is very sensitive to the physical and emotional environment provided by parents and siblings.  Children have an innate expectation of love and security within the family.  When this haven of safety is violated through such intemperate behavior as physical, alcohol or drug, and sexual abuse, the very core of a child’s being is irreparably damaged.  When a child experiences such a violation of himself or herself s/he begins to believe that s/he is bad, guilty, unworthy.  This core of shame leads to basic loss of self value and esteem.  The next coping step is an emotional cover-up which leads to being out of balance in some fundamental ways and behavior choices that are usually self destructive.

One of our society’s better secrets is what goes on behind the front door of our homes.  Most people are unaware, or do not talk about, the alcoholism, battery, and sexual violation that goes on in many homes.  Kids do not miss a thing.  They have an emotional radar about them that senses and feels every violation of the human spirit that goes on within the home.  What they do with that experience is crucial.  Some heal these deep seated feelings of shame; some do not.  Those that do not continue to perpetuate these ugly episodes upon their own children

With permission of the writer I share the following parts of a therapeutic letter written by a shamed woman to her stepfather.

 

I was born with a spirit just like every child is.  Mine was big, bright, and white-peaceful, calm, playful, and trusting.  As I grew my spirit grew with me.  About the time I was five you began to take it away.  You started with physical abuse, it became mental, and finally sexual.   My beautiful spirit began to move away from me…  Eventually I just stopped living. My spirit was gone.

 

Part of another letter written later as part of her healing process:

I just wanted to share with you the price I have paid for an emotion.  This emotion is shame.  It is a horrible feeling to be ashamed of myself.  As I am going around in my life freeing my mind and soul, I have realized that I have been ashamed of myself because of the abuse I received as a child. Being ashamed of myself I have not been able to have deep caring friendships.  I was afraid of someone looking in my eyes and seeing what I have done… It has cost me valuable time with my children.  I was not able to make healthy decisions in our lives… It has cost me from having a deep good personal relationship because I am not worthy.  I am working on not being ashamed of myself.  I promised myself that I would show my true heart and hold my head high and look into your eyes knowing I have done nothing wrong.

 

There is no greater sin than to shame a child!

How To Find the “Right” Person. How To Be the “Right” Person.

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

In my practice I spend many clinical hours helping people find a loving relationship.  In our society Singles are scouring the terrain searching for the “right” person with whom to share wedded bliss.  Marrieds continually tell me what is not “right” with their mate and ask me to “fix” him or her.

Some individuals, surprisingly, have a different focus.  They are first working on being the “right” person within themselves before searching for a complementary partner.  These people do much of the necessary personal growth before entering a relationship so that they will not destroy, or be destroyed in, a relationship.

Relative to being the “right” person and finding the “right” person, may I invite you into a game of self awareness?  This game is called “10 Q.”  Let’s start with the part of BEING the “right” person first.  Write on a piece of paper a list of the ten most special qualities that you have to bring to another as a partner — in priority order.  What do you like most about yourself?  What are your strengths?

The second part of this exercise is to list the “10 Q” of the “perfect 10″ person with whom you want to share your life.  What qualities –in priority order– are most important?  What do you need/want in that special person?

Too many times in marriage counseling I find myself saying to one or both of my clients, “Why did you marry this person if this is who you are and that is what you want?”  Such discrepancies always amaze me.  People “fall in love” and get married, and then years later say, “What am I doing with this person?”  If would be much better if each person had done an in depth “10 Q” BEFORE they had committed to each other.  Ah, hindsight!

If you are already in a marriage, this exercise still has merit in that it helps you know yourself better, in addition to helping you know what kind of person you desire.  This awareness can promote better communication with your mate as to your wishes and wants.  Perhaps your partner could do the same.  Then y’all could see how great a discrepancy may exist and what you may want to do about it.

In conclusion, BE the “right” person before you search to FIND the “right” person.  If you already are married, still try to BE a better person and then you may end up finding a partner also willing to develop into being a better spouse.  Take the lead, you may be surprised what may result!

“Soul Medicine”: What in Heaven’s Name is That? “Heady Thoughts!

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

    Body and Soul.  You probably have heard that descriptive combination of words in a variety of contexts.  I doubt, however, that you will have heard or understood them in the perspective that I am about to present.  Two respected authors, a medicine man – Norman Shealy, M.D. and a research scientist investigating “soul” impact on the body – Dawson Church, Ph.D., have written a book entitled SOUL MEDICINE.  Are you interested in what this means?  Stay with me for it is fascinating material, with implications for your well being.

     First off, “Soul” has been described in many ways, particularly in religious or musical frameworks.  Some even speak of it in a romantic way such as “Soul Mate”. In this book the authors define their meaning of “Soul”.  It is “a personalized expression of the universal field, as the divine aspect of a human being, of God expressed at the level of a single being, or as a personhood made manifest through pure consciousness, as opposed to physical or mental form”.   Got that!? Seekers of extended knowledge,  let’s move on. This isn’t fluff.

     A beginning point is to understand Epigenics.  Epigenics looks at the influences on DNA from outside the cell.  The biochemical environment in which cells exist has a profound effect on which genes are activated.  The energy environment has an even more rapid effect than the chemical one on gene function and direction.  Bottom line deduction here is that you are born with a certain DNA, our hand me down genes from our biological parents and their ancestors.  These genes can activate or evolve in a variety of directions depending on the biochemical environment and the energy field present.

     Needless to say, this reality has a lot to say with regard to pregnancy, birth, and early childhood environment and development.  The brain which drives all thinking, feeling, and behavior is particularly vulnerable to potential changes as it evolves into its “wired” state.

     Shealy and Church speak of three “pillars” of Soul Medicine:

  1. A human being is an ENERGY SYSTEM. Every atom in the body vibrates at a certain energy level.
  2. CONSCIOUSNESS affects the energy system. Genes and consciousness interact. A change in Consciousness automatically changes the energy system.  Some knowledge of quantum physics enables you to further understand this evolving energy system impacting your DNA.
  3. INTENTION provides the power, the motivating force, to set in motion the complex chain of events that results in personal growth and healing. Intention conditions the field of Consciousness, reorganizing energy to create such an optimal energy field.

Your thought, or intention, effects an energy change.  Are you familiar with the term placebo?  The placebo effect is one example of this. A person thinks (believes) that a certain pill will cure a particular ailment. In reality the pill is a simple sugar pill having no potency. Yet healing often takes place. Why? It is because the person converts a belief into a very specific molecule having a different biochemical reality which in turn produces a different (healing) result.

     Another more mundane example. A group of women got together to have a fun weekend getaway playing tennis and drinking Bloody Mary’s.  As they consumed more and more of this beverage their behavior changed. They were feeling the “buzz”. They became giddy and more extroverted in their conversation and antics.  Later they realized, much to their chagrin,  that they had forgotten to put the vodka into the Bloody Mary mix!  But because they hadbelieved vodka was in the drink, they experienced the “buzz” and frivolity that resulted. (Ask my wife for details!)

     Let me close, finally, emphasizing the practical point that the brain changes (neuroplasticity) depending on how you perceive information. Perceptions “wire” the brain which then lead to further thoughts, feelings, and consequent behavior. 

     A situation I encounter daily involves this principle.  I listen to a husband and wife describe a situation.  Both were present. Yet their description, based on their perception and consequent belief, and the emotion connected with it, lead to vastly different conclusions.  This then in turn leads to some pretty negative behavior by one or both of them.

     In conclusion, I hope you have enjoyed this foray into some of the latest research on the brain and it implications for your life.   This is significant information!

                “The unexamined life is not worth living”       Socrates