Archive for February, 2015

Are Your Romantic, And Other, LIfe Expectations Being Met?

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

An important perspective of your life is the expectations that you have. Expectations vary over the course of your life from the earliest days of existence on through your last breath.

A newborn entering the world from what is usually a secure and nurturing existence in the womb expects safety and nurturance as life progresses.  Safety and nurturance are basic needs to be met for you to be able to continue to grow into your full potential, physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

As you grow older your expectations/needs change depending on what age and situation exists.  You have expectations about what kind of life you want to live and create going forward.  Such expectations may be realistic or unrealistic based on a number of factors, including your objectivity and resources.

For the purpose of this writing, I will narrow down the full panoply of your life expectations to the ones you may have concerning your love life.  What are your expectations for a romantic relationship that you have or hope to have in the future? In my practice I spend much counseling time helping individuals and couples to understand their conscious, or unconscious, expectations and assessing the degree to which they can be met in a particular relationship.

Expectation areas can vary widely.  Some of the topic areas where expectations are met or unmet in certain life stages would be: finances, sex, health, fun and adventure, children/parenting, etc…  You may be a person who may not have thought much consciously about your expectations, yet they may surface when you become aware that you are not happy because some expectation was not met. You may not have communicated this to your partner and thus it was not met.

The reason for this article is to encourage you, Respected Reader, to do your best to get in touch with your expectations of your partner and, to the extent possible, learn the expectations that your partner has for you. Communicate these expectations clearly to your partner and hear well the other person’s. Discuss in detail how you would assess whether an expectation is met or not. If met, hopefully you will compliment your partner.  If expectations are not met, may you respectfully state your disappointment and work together to see that the expectation is clear, doable, and met. Perhaps some clarification is needed.

Know your expectations. Set them forth assertively. Hear well your partners. Clarify and compromise as needed. Then get on with the task of having your, and your partner’s, expectations met which greatly enhances the quality of life shared.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

How Do You Compare To Happy People? Do The Checklist And Find Out!

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

I remember asking a friend many years ago what she wanted out of life.  She replied that she just wanted “to be happy”. At the time I thought that was superficial. Over the years, my research and clinical experience, has changed my perception of wanting to be “happy”.  I now see it as a desired goal, not seeing it as superficial but as a guided chosen way to aspire to live.  If you make good healthy choices you have a high probability of being happy.  Thus, the rationale for this writing.

Our daughter, Brittany, is a very accomplished blogger with thousands of followers. On her blog site,, she cited and personalized, a writing by Chiara Fucarino entitled “22 things happy people do differently. I would like to share them and add my own commentary.

  1. DON’T HOLD GRUDGES: People that forgive, and work to forget, do not let negative feelings crowd out positive ones. Thus they are less inclined to be depressed, anxious, or stressed. To continue to let anyone who has wronged you continue to have power over you is not very wise.
  2. TREAT EVERYONE WITH KINDNESS: It is proven that being kind makes you happier. Kindness acts produce serotonin, a hormone that eases tension and lifts your spirits.
  3. SEE PROBLEMS AS CHALLENGES:  A “problem” is viewed negatively as a drawback. A “challenge” is positively viewed as an opportunity or dare.
  4. EXPRESS GRATITUDE FOR WHAT THEY ALREADY HAVE: “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.”
  5. DREAM BIG: If you dream big you open your mind to a wider range of opportunities and will put yourself in a focused and positive state.
  6. DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF: Life’s too short to obsess over trivial situations; and in the bigger scheme of things, most stuff is trivial.
  7. SPEAK WELL OF OTHERS: Being nice feels better than being mean. Saying nice things about people encourages you to think positive, non judgmental thoughts.
  8. NEVER MAKE EXCUSES: Happy people don’t make excuses or blame others for their own failures in life. They own up to their mistakes and by doing so try to change for the better.
  9. GET ABSORBED INTO THE PRESENT: Happy people don’t dwell on the past or get caught up in the future. They savor the present. Carpe diem!
  10. WAKE UP AT THE SAME TIME EVERY MORNING: Successful people tend to be early risers. Waking up at the same time every morning stabilizes your circadian rhythm, increases productivity, and puts you in a calm and centered state.
  11. AVOID SOCIAL COMPARISON: Don’t let others’ situation be a barometer of your well being. It leads to judgment and feelings of superiority or inferiority depending on the comparison. Focus on your own progress.
  12. CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS WISELY: Surround yourself with positive optimistic people who encourage you to reach your goals.
  13. NEVER SEEK APPROVAL FROM OTHERS:  Happy people don’t care what other people think of them. Their slogan is “what you think of me is none of my business”.
  14. TAKE TIME TO LISTEN: Talk less, listen more. Listening keeps your mind open to others’ wisdoms and outlooks on the world.
  15. NURTURE SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS: Lonely is miserable. Happy people understand how important it is to have strong healthy relationships.
  16. MEDITATE: Meditation silences the mind and helps you lower stress and find inner peace.
  17. EAT WELL: Everything you eat directly affects your body’s ability to produce hormones, which will dictate your moods, energy, and mental focus. “You are what you eat!”
  18. EXERCISE: Exercise raises happiness levels by lowering stress and raising self esteem based on chemical changes in the brain and a sense of accomplishment.
  19. LIVE MINIMALLY: Having less “things” and avoiding clutter keeps stress down and elicits productivity.
  20. TELL THE TRUTH: Lying stresses you out, corrodes your self esteem, and makes you untrustworthy. Being honest improves your mental health and build trust with others.
  21. ESTABLISH PERSONAL CONTROL: Happy people have the ability to choose their own destinies. Nobody tells them how to live their life. Being in control of one’s life brings positive feelings and a great sense of self worth.
  22. ACCEPT WHAT CAN’T BE CHANGED: Life is not fair. Accept that and focus on what you can control and change it for the better.

There they are. How do you stack up?  How many of these are characteristic of your life? Which ones do you need to work on?

“The purpose of our lives is to be happy”- Dalai Lama.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”- Socrates

“Enculturation”, My Personal Journey. Do You Know Yours?

Sunday, February 15th, 2015

I would like to take you on a “heady” journey with me in this writing. I have become quite intrigued of late with the concept of enculturation.  Do you know what that is?

Wikipedia defines enculturation as the “process by which people learn the requirements of their surrounding culture and acquire values and behaviors appropriate or necessary in that culture. As part of this process, the influences that limit, direct, or shape the individual include parents, other adults, and peers.”

May I share my personal journey of enculturation and its expansion elements.  I was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin – “Cheesehead Country”. When I was growing up nearly everybody was Caucasion and Catholic. The “culture” was the Packers. If you wanted to be “somebody” you were either a Packer or a priest. (I didn’t make the team so I became a priest!).

After twelve years of Catholic schooling  I went to the University of Wisconsin – Madison. This began the expansion of my narrow enculturation. People of different races, religions, cultures, life styles, and belief systems bombarded my limited world view. Then when I was twenty one, between my Junior and Senior years, I spent three months traveling through thirteen countries. I travelled and slept in a VW Beetle, except when in Israel, where I slept in cemeteries. Wow, a further enriching of my worldview. I saw many different ways of living based on belief systems and style of their particular enculturation.

After finishing my degree in Economics (what was I thinking?) my roots’ enculturation took me to the seminary to become a Catholic priest. It was here that I studied philosophy and theology.  These studies taught me about Church History, with its changing dogmas, practices, and “spin offs”.  I learned how the Bible was put together over time with differing numbers of books of the Bible among different Christian sects.  (Catholics have fifteen more books than Protestants). The first “Canon” of the Bible was put together in the Fourth century by “inspired” bishops. Fascinating  stuff.  Most people don’t know these things and only know what they are told in this day and time. How unfortunate.

Further travels, research, and clinical experiences with patients/clients have continued to open my eyes to the mighty big world that I live in. As a result many of my previous beliefs and biases have changed from the enculturation of my childhood.

So, Respected Reader, you may be wondering why I have chosen to write about this topic and my personal experience with enculturation. The answer is that I am committed to growing as a person and inviting you and others to look at how you have become the person that you are. Where did you grow up?  Who and what were the factors that developed you beliefs and practices? Are you stuck in your narrow mindedness?  Do you have “hardening of the categories” that keeps you locked in archaic understandings?  Do you stereotype people rather than getting to know the individual?

A book that has helped to open me up to the reality of human consciousness capacity is Power vs. Force by David Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D.  He writes of the “hidden determinants of human behavior”. Your enculturation can either expand your capacity to rise to a higher consciousness level or limit your growth and keep you stunted in ignorance and unhealthy prejudices.

Valentine’s Day Gut Checks! Yours?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

The annual Valentine celebration, or mourning, arrives this week on your calendar.  What does this noted day mean to you?  Possible options:

1. “It means nothing to me.  I’m not in a relationship. I’m very Single. Therefore, no obligation or opportunity. Deep down I do wish I had someone to love, someone who loved me.

I’ll cover up my loneliness by getting engrossed in American Idol (she). I’ll hit the sports bar and watch anything that’s on (he).”

2. “Another disappointment.  My husband is clueless and not romantic at all. He doesn’t understand that his thoughtfulness on this day makes me feel closer to him.  And who knows what might follow from that!”

3. “This is another female holiday where I’m supposed to send flowers, take her out for dinner, etc… What’s in it for me?  Get laid?  May be worth it.  Haven’t had sex is four months.”

4. It is a business promotion holiday- but so what, I love her and I’ll show it this day –and other times.

5. I’m so fortunate to be in love and want to share this day in a special way with my significant other.

6. Other response?  Fill in the blank.

If Valentine’s Day does nothing else – and this is significant- it calls attention to the presence, absence, and/or the quality of one’s love life.  Do you have a partner?  Is it a good relationship?  What is missing? Anything?  A lot?  Do you express how you feel.  Does s/he hear it?  What is the response?

One thing I have learned over the years in my practice is that it is the goal/job/ privilege of each partner to love the other the way s/he needs/ wants to be loved – to the extent possible.  Nobody does it perfectly, but maximal effort is called for.  When each person tries, movement forward results.

There are a number of people who will not finish this article.  They don’t want to deal with this.  They keep their disappointments, dashed hopes, to themselves (except maybe to a close friend (she) or a buddy over too many beers (he).  Trust, it can be better.

May Valentine’s Day serve as a gut check, perhaps wake up call to address your love life and add a bit more pizzazz to it!!


“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Significant Life Decisions Involve Sacrifices And Trade-offs! What Are Yours?

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

One of my favorite sayings is “Every decision involves an incision”. If you decide something you limit your options. A mundane example. If you choose to go out to a movie you cut off the option of staying home and watching television.

How about a more profound decision.  You decide to marry a person, thus you cut off the possibility of marrying another person (at least temporarily).

Where I am going with this is to try and make the point that choices/decisions involve giving up other options. You make a trade-off – one rather than another. This usually involves some type of sacrifice – giving up a part of yourself or something you also would desire.

The reason for this focused writing is that I encounter too often people who selfishly “want it all” and won’t make the sacrifices necessary to do what is best with the apparent decision that was made.

An example of a “sacrifice” that a responsible person would make is the use of time. I believe your calendar speaks volumes as to your life choices and priorities. Tell me how you spend your time and I will know much about the type of person you are with such choices.

If you are married and your marriage is a top priority, which it should be, then you give ample time to your spouse. Doing that would mean that you “sacrifice”, incise, your time for other desired activities such as golf, tennis, fishing, hunting, etc…

If you are a parent and your children are a high priority then you spend ample time with them – loving, nurturing, mentoring, having fun, etc… You then must “sacrifice” certain things that you may  want to do.

To summarize, have you made the right prioritized choices for your life and faithfully lived with the trade-offs, consequences, that these decisions entailed? If being a wonderful spouse and parent is important then you are making the appropriate “sacrifices” for the greater good for yourself, your marriage and your family. In the long run if you make such sacrifices you will realize that these trade-offs pale in comparison to the benefits derived by having a good marriage and successful children.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates