Archive for March, 2016

5 Reasons Emotionally Intelligent People Are Happier

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

Do you know what “Emotional Intelligence” is? If you want to know it in depth I suggest that you read Daniel Goldman’s insightful book EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE.  When published it was on the New York Times bestseller list for a year and a half, sold more than five million copies, and has been translated into forty languages. In this brief writing I would like to share a key component of emotional intelligence as it relates to personal happiness. I am guided in this by an article written by Joan Moran.

Emotional Intelligence is a necessary life skill for creating strong and committed interpersonal relationships. It is useful in decision-making, academic achievement, parenting, management, and most any human interaction.

Emotionally intelligent people are happier because:

  1. THEY ARE MORE SELF-AWARE. Emotionally intelligent people power up their emotional antenna and pay closer attention to their surroundings and how they fit into a social circle. Conversation, the give-and-take of energy, fires up the neurotransmitters and keeps these people mindful of the contextual involvement. That collective awareness leads to a greater collective feeling of happiness.
  2. THEY MANAGE THEIR EMOTIONS. In order to manage emotions, it is necessary to understand what emotions are being expressed and what emotions are being felt. That means being fully conscious and aware of what’s going on inside of you so the outside actions can match the inside emotions. Stay present and happiness results.
  3. THEY ARE MORE SOCIALLY AWARE. Emotionally intelligent people can manage their emotions in social situations and, at the same time, react in a positive manner to the emotional needs of others who want attention and connection. They have the ability to cheer up or calm down others whatever the context. It’s an easy transition to a happy mindset.
  4. THEY HAVE MORE EMPATHY. Empathy is the ability to stay connected to others and imagine themselves feeling as others do. They use their senses and intuition and, as a result, they usually develop deep responses to those in need of consolation or reinforcement.
  5. THEY ARE MORE ENGAGED. Emotionally intelligent people have the ability to connect with others by using their emotional awareness to promote cognitive activity that results in understanding the dynamics of others.


For emotional intelligence to be activated you must have access to your emotions. Many people have not developed their emotional capacity, located in the right brain, or have developed defenses that have shut down emotional access. Both of these conditions can be remediated by working with a mental health professional that understands Emotional Intelligence and knows how to teach someone how to enhance it.

Respected Reader, do you feel that you have a highly developed Emotional Intelligence?  You might want to get a second opinion from someone who knows you very well. It is a capacity that adds much to your life – happiness!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Are You A Whiner Or A Choicemaker? Know The Difference?

Friday, March 18th, 2016

Essentially there are two types of people when significant depressing events occur in their life – Whiners and Choicmakers. Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse has written a very readable pamphlet entitled THE MIRACLE that elaborates on these two types of folks. Ms. Wegscheider-Cruse has had a particularly significant impact in the ACOA (Adult Children Of Alcoholics) movement. The following are examples of her style and message, accompanied by my elaborations.

WHINERS, when faced with a despairing situation, lament by saying things as ”why me”, “life’s not fair”, “I’d have to start over”, “I want things to change, not me”, “I might fail”, “I’d like to but…”, “I can’t”.

CHOICEMAKERS, when faced with a similar challenge, respond with words such as “I will choose my future”, “It’s my turn”, “I deserve good things”,  “Action is the energy I need!”.

Choicemakers are winners. They are so because they do the following things to the best of their ability. They:

  1. Can resist conformity. They believe they have special gifts and a certain lifestyle to live. They don’t need to “fit in” or gain other’s approval. They have learned to say “no” to the unreasonable demands of others.
  2. Are willing to invent new lifestyles. They no longer surround themselves with people who are not additive to their well being.
  3. Take risks. They can imagine, envision, and create a better lifestyle than what they had been living. They choose freedom to be themselves and let go of the “shoulds” imposed by others.
  4. Fail, but learn from it. They would rather make the wrong decision and learn a lesson rather than live in the illusion of safety. They choose not to be stuck in unhappiness.
  5. Trust their experiences. They learn to listen to their own instincts and feelings.
  6. Live in the present, not in the past but keep an eye on the developing future.
  7. Accept pain as necessary. They recognize that pain can offer an insight and impulse toward positive change. Healing of that pain is possible while evolving into a more successful self.
  8. Lead simple lives. Excess is cut out of their lives. Core necessities are created and enjoyed. They have learned that “every decision involves an incision” and are able to make the necessary cuts.
  9. Have developed the gift and skill of discernment. They make enlightened choices to protect themselves while setting appropriate boundaries.
  10. Accept recovery. They accept where they have been, value where they are, and share their insight to those who welcome such a connection.

If a person has progress well along the above parameters that person has the capacity to be intimate. The following qualities have thus emerged. This person:

  1. Is able to take care of his or her own personal, financial, and emotional needs and no longer needy.
  2. Is alive with passion – full of life. Can appreciate sight, color, sound, and touch.
  3. Has uncovered long-lost feelings and has released and forgiven when necessary.
  4. Love oneself enough to be clear in stating wants and desires.
  5. Has filled oneself enough so that they are ready and capable of giving deeply to another.

The end of the year and the holidays are often a time of challenge and reflection. May this offering be additive and directional if needed as you continue your journey of self development.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates

Combining Families: Successful Strategies!

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

People marry. People divorce. People re-marry, often after having kids. Such a subsequent marriage offers many challenges which is why the divorce rate for them is significantly higher. One of the main reasons for such failure is the children factor – trying to combine two families. Not easy!

In my practice I face this issue often. It is one of the more complex, and often frustrating, situations that I encounter. There are many variables involved. I will try to touch some of the more prevalent ones. Dr. Phil has listed some good strategies. I will share them with you and add some of my own.

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE THE CHALLENGE: Some people are naïve and think that “love conquers all”. It doesn’t. Money, discipline, chores, religion, visitation issues, exes, age of children, schooling, etc… are some of the more common challenging areas. Unfortunately most couples do not have good communication, compromise, and a plan when entering into such an arrangement. It is a pity that so few couples do not see a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist before hand to understand the feasibility of such a union and develop a pro-active plan to meet the upcoming challenges.
  2. COME UP WITH A REALISTIC PLAN: When a family merges some of the more specific plans that need to be developed are: a) the role each parent will play in parenting each other’s kids.           b) the division of labor concerning the kids. c) how much alone time the couple will have without kids. d) how do grandparents and other extended family fit into the picture? e) long terms goals. f) financial goals, short and long term. g) many more!
  3. BE AWARE OF HOW THE CHILDFREN INVOLVED ARE EXPERIENCING THIS CHANGE: The kids did not make this choice. It was made for them. What are their perceptions, desires, feelings as to such disruption of their lives? Good communication is needed to be sure that they can participate and be heard.
  4. DO NOT ARGUE IN FRONT OF YOUR CHILDREN: Your children have witnessed enough family conflict. Don’t make it worse. When you argue in front of your children you change who they are. When they see you fighting they believe it is because of them.
  5. STOP COMPLAINING AND BE SPECIFIC AS TO YOUR NEEDS: Be clear in your own mind what your needs are and be respectfully specific in pointing them out to your spouse. Mind reading is not a gift that your spouse possesses! Also, ask your spouse what needs s/he may have.
  6. AGREE ON DISCIPLINE STRATEGIES FOR KIDS: This is vitally important. What are the mutual expectations for all the kids and what are the consequences for meeting or not meeting them. Generally the biological parent should be the explainer and enforcer of such rules. Be fair and consistent.
  7. CREATE A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR STEPCHILD(REN): You are now a pivotal person in the kids’ life, having a significant impact in how s/he develops. How you accept and treat the child will is very important.
  8. SUPPORT YOUR SPOUSE’S RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS/HER CHILD: Never make your spouse choose between you and his/her child. Too often in counseling I hear the spouse say “I’m not number one”. Anger or hurt accompanies this statement. I believe that there can be two “number ones”. Each is a different relationship with different emotions, behaviors and time spent factors.
  9. FORM A GOOD ALLIANCE WITH YOUR FORMER SPOUSE: You and your former spouse have not ended your relationship. Your marriage has ended but you have an eternal bond with the co- parent of your child. How you relate has an enormous affect on your child(ren). One of the more disheartening things I witness in counseling is when the parents continue to have an estranged argumentative relationship. Severe damage is caused by these parents who cannot ante up and relate well for sake of their child.

The list could go on and on. It is a daunting task to seamlessly blend children with another parent and any kids that may be a part of such a package. If you are contemplating such a union, or already in one, please get some professional help for the arduous task ahead.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

Role Models and Mentors Are Valuable And Needed!

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Do you have role models? Did you have them while growing up? Who were, or are, your mentors? Popular commentary states that such persons are important for a child growing up. I agree – depending on who you give the distinction of being a role model or mentor.

I believe that the most basic, and needed, role models or mentors while growing up should be your parents. If they have dropped the ball and failed to provide a positive portrayal then a child will seek out popular or media present role models. In most cases this is not particularly beneficial.

What I am talking about here is in the area of personal growth and development. For career development, that’s a different story. Here a child or young adult needs a model or mentor  who is successful in an area that the person is interested in. Many choices are available, some inspirational and some that would not be a wise choice.

In working with young people in my practice I continually see them floundering while trying to develop an identity and direction commensurate with their talents and proclivities. Some of the young folk have parents who are absent and no guidance is available.  Others have “helicopter” parents who are overly involved in directing their child as to who s/he “should” be.

Personally I feel I was slow in getting a sense of my identity and career direction. My father, role model, was in the car business and was gone a lot while providing for the family.  I knew early on that the car business was not for me. So what was? In college I was clueless about career direction and ended up with an Economics degree. Upon graduation I realized that degree offered nothing that I was interested in. So I “defaulted” back to what my substitute “fathers” drilled into me. Twelve years of priest role models caught up with me. They said God had called me to be a priest. So I did that. Another wrong career direction choice, although I treasure what I learned through five years of seminary and a few years as a priest.

Bottom line is that I did not know myself, my talents, or deep seeded passion. Gratefully this came about after I made a series of painful choices that forced me to look deep inside myself to see what was the best career fit. My own stubbornness did not help the situation. I did not seek guidance or insight very easily!

I am grateful that I found certain people who were successful, had ideals, cared about me,  inspired me, and assisted me in finding my true calling – a psychotherapist. As a pragmatic idealist I have found great satisfaction in being a person who finds great satisfaction in helping people find their “path” to success and happiness – whether it be in the areas of mental health, relationships, or career direction.  Another benefit of this choice is that it has given me the flexibility to arrange my schedule around important family time.

Respected Reader, have you had role models  or mentors who have helped guide you to a better and fitting place in your life? Is there a need for such a “hero” currently? Are you currently serving as a good role model in your family or career?

“The unexamined life is not worth living”   Socrates